MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann said Friday that liberal commentators and legal experts would be just as welcome as conservatives to participate in a series of constitutional discussions she is organizing for members of Congress.
The Minnesota Republican and founder of the congressional tea party caucus drew criticism after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative members of the high court, agreed to appear at the first event Jan. 24. Some legal experts noted that the court could soon find itself wading into contentious political issues, including efforts to strike down President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, and said justices who appear at events sponsored by a prominent Republican could do damage to their impartiality.
But Bachmann said it's not uncommon for Supreme Court justices to speak publically about their legal philosophies. In November, Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the most liberal members of the court, sparred over various constitutional questions during a rare public debate sponsored by Texas Tech University Law School.
Bachmann said Democrats and Republicans would all be welcome to attend.
"The idea is just to create an opportunity for us to wrap our minds around our magnificent founding documents before we cast votes," Bachmann said.
Bachmann said guests could include both legal scholars and commentators, and future seminars are likely to include presentations by former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese and lawyer Mark Levin, a conservative commentator and radio host. She said other Supreme Court justices are also considering her invitation.
While so far only conservative speakers are planned, Bachmann said she'd be interested in lining up liberal speakers as well.
"This is bipartisan and we are interested in hearing from voices all the way along the spectrum," she said.
Bachmann, who has drawn a national following with frequent guest appearances on cable and network news shows, broke fundraising records with a $13 million haul en route to winning her third term in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. She hinted earlier this week at a possible presidential run in 2012, and plans a trip later this month to the early caucus state of Iowa.
Bachmann said Friday that she intended to deliver speeches in Iowa and other early-primary states because she wants to help launch a conversation that shapes the agenda of the next Republican candidate for president. She said she wants that candidate to be a "strong, courageous constitutional conservative," but wouldn't answer questions about how seriously she is considering a possible bid.
"It's a mistake to spend a year speculating on who the eventual nominee will be," Bachmann said. "We need to spend the next year talking about the issues that will define the race."