When grassroots tea party support propelled a number of conservative Republicans into office in last November's midterm elections, many expected the newly formed congressional Tea Party caucuses to gain steam and prominence on Capitol Hill. Indeed, the House Tea Party Caucus -- founded by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. -- now boasts 52 members (all Republicans) and the Senate caucus has recruited four prominent figures, including Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Rand Paul, R-Ky. But some notable tea party favorites have repeatedly stated they will not join.
Though he's an outspoken tea party ally, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has refused to join the House caucus, saying that its "structure and formality are the exact opposite" of what the tea party movement stands for. "[I]f there is an attempt to put structure and formality around it, or to co-opt it by Washington, D.C., it’s going to take away from the free-flowing nature of the true tea party movement."
“I’m 100 percent pro-tea party, but this is not the right thing to do,” Chaffetz said.
Most recently, the idea of an organized caucus has been dismissed by another tea party favorite, Sen. Marco Rubio. While the Florida Republican has unapologetically advocated conservative policies and principles, he has long questioned the need for a formal caucus in Washington. In a local radio interview last Friday, Rubio made the criticism even clearer, saying such a "little club" run by politicians in Washington could cause the real movement "to lose its energy."
HOST: When Michele Bachmann began to create this Tea Party Caucus, I got this really bad taste in my mouth. … You and I see eye-to-eye on this, right? It’s a grassroots movement, right? [...]
RUBIO: Now, specifically about the Tea Party Caucus, the concern that I’ve expressed, is that what I think gives the tea party its strength and its legitimacy in the American political process is that it’s a grassroots movement of everyday Americans. …
My fear has always been that if you start creating these little clubs or organizations in Washington run by politicians, the movement starts to lose its energy. Basically, the media will jump on that and start paying attention to that instead of the grass roots movement which is really what has given the tea party its voice. … I don’t want us to do anything that kind of changes its grassroots nature.
Here's the full interview: