'First Tea Party town hall' sees political unity, few tough questions for lawmakers
February 8th, 2011
11:53 PM ET
10 years ago

'First Tea Party town hall' sees political unity, few tough questions for lawmakers

Washington (CNN) - Six members of Congress faced conservative activists in what organizers called the "first Tea Party town hall" on Tuesday.

Attendees included Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, both of Utah, as well as Representatives Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Allen West of Florida and Steve King of Iowa.

Before the event, organizers said the lawmakers should expect tough questions from activists in the audience at the National Press Club and from others via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Instead, the event took on the air of a pep rally at times. Activists, who staunchly support some of the lawmakers, encouraged them, largely agreed with them and frequently applauded their statements about Constitutionally-limited government, lower taxes and less spending.

Paul - the first lawmaker to speak - praised the movement: "It's an amazing thing, I've never seen anything like this."

Lee echoed his sentiment, saying the Tea Party is not "a passing fad."

Bachmann - a darling of the movement - said she came to the Tea Party Express event because supporters of the cause are the, "Cavalry that did the rescue work in the last election."

Bachmann then repeated her recent statement of concern about the nation.

"No one's really quite sure if we'll transfer that torch of liberty to the next generation," Bachmann said.

For his part, Hatch declared, "It's time for America to take back America and the Tea Party will play a role in that."

The story of Hatch's appearance presented a bit of a sub-text to the carefully-orchestrated event.

The Tea Party Express has told CNN it does not intend to politically target the senator as he pursues a seventh term. But other Tea Party activists claim Hatch is not a reliable conservative. They cite some of his votes, like for TARP, and his collaboration at times with Democrats.

On Tuesday, the Tea Party Express distributed an e-mail with the headline, "TONIGHT: Orrin Hatch Faces the Tea Party Movement." The e-mail said that Hatch "continues his outreach" to activists and that he'd face questions from those "who have both criticized and praised" his record.

On Monday, Express Chairman Amy Kremer told CNN that Hatch "invited himself" to the event. But the group, along with a spokeswoman for Hatch later explained that the senator had been previously invited. Both sides cited a miscommunication that sparked the notion of Hatch coming to an event where he had not originally been invited.

In a scrum with reporters, separate from the town hall, Hatch defended his conservative credentials. He added that he does not fear a possible political challenge from a fellow Utah Republican.

"I've always had convention challenges," Hatch said. "I'm a tough guy."

Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Filed under: Allen West • Michele Bachmann • Mike Lee • Orrin Hatch • Steve King • Tea Party Express
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. grrace

    The 'teaparty' is listed by experts as a HATE group.

    February 9, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  2. duke

    Who turned down the political volume??
    Did somebody solve the jobs problem and nobody told me about it??
    In this country truth don't matter anymore,only the loudest screamer's and money!!
    I don't believe in America anymore.

    February 9, 2011 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  3. Name king

    These bags of old rich mitfits that don't give a dam, although most of their members are depending in the government for their livelyhood, landers to the rich at every turn, they bitch gripe and holler about the state of the budget crisis and unemployment, yet they steadily want to cut money from the middle class and poor, which create demand to support area businesses who then hire folks. Just today they defeated a bill that would cut tax breaks for the gigantic oil companies that would pour billions in getting out budget fiscally responsibilities in order but the repugs stopped that and have the nerves to criticize the dems for trying. Fed taxes are the lowest in 61 years, under Obama but leave it
    Up to the tea baggers and there getting tax too much, when will these folks end their hiprocrocy and be real about the things real things that are affecting America. Bush had way higher taxes than what we have at the present if you believe it or not. We can't survive with such low taxes, and fewer revenue going to the federal budget, this is insanity. we just can't leave it up to the middle class and the poor to balance this budget while big corporations with their record shattering profits take up fake residence in other countries to avoid paying taxes, and get our
    fiscal house in order. Then you wonder why the middle class is losing so much ground on the rich.

    February 9, 2011 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  4. Inmyopinion

    People are finally realizing that we cannot continue to borrow money from China and have us pay higher taxes so we can pay the loan back to China. And we have all seen evidence that big government is not good.

    February 9, 2011 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  5. Chris

    How am I not surpised? The Tea Party is all about the Republicans being in complete lockstep together, and lobbying a few softball questions at them.

    If this was in front of Democrats, the Tea Party would be screaming and frothing at the mouth, accussing them of trying to install a dictatorship, creating Death Panels, and calling for Obama to be impeach for being a Kenyan Socialist Muslim terrorist.

    February 9, 2011 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  6. Freedom

    Congratulations and God Bless these fine patriots! Vote GOP 2012!

    February 9, 2011 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  7. greg in jax

    Dear Michelle Baachman, Just wanted to let you know we already got America back despite many attempts of corporate buyouts, but thanks anyways. Sincerely, America

    February 9, 2011 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  8. Clwyd

    Sure they support their hacks who screwed up last night on the Patriot Act and don't know their one end from the other. Maybe electing the witch from Delaware would have been even better for them? Oh, the Patriot Act should never have take over importance of the Constitution regardless of the threat!

    February 9, 2011 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  9. Living in America

    Did anybody ask them are they responsible for that massacre since President Obama was made responsible for everything Rev. Wright said. By the way where is the 30 day report card on the Republicans/Tea Party members on their progress since they have been in office. President Obama was graded from Day 1.

    February 9, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |