“I bet you we’re going to like 95 percent of it, because he’s one of us,” said tea party activist Billie Tucker before the governor released his plan. “We’re going to support the deep cuts.”
State Reps. Mike Weinstein of Jacksonville and Larry Metz of Yalaha, two Republican legislators who supported Scott’s transformation from former embattled health care CEO to viable gubernatorial candidate last spring, announced to the crowd that they would be forming a Tea Party Caucus within the Florida legislature.
“Republicans in the Senate have already made a pledge to end earmarks and fight for a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Paul said in the statement. “By joining with my fellow Senators, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, as well as grassroots groups who see the need for government reform, the caucus will work to enact real change to protect our country and its taxpayers from an ever-expanding government.”
Not all tea party favorites see the formation of formal caucuses as a wise or necessary move. Rising GOP star Marco Rubio told reporters late last month that he didn’t see the need for a Tea Party Caucus:
“Really what I think the strength of the tea party is that it comes from the grass-roots,” Rubio told a group of Florida reporters in an interview in his temporary Senate office. “That it is not a political organization, it’s not something run by politicians or people seeking higher office, but rather it is a movement of every day citizens from all walks of life. That’s the strength of the tea party: that it’s not a political organization run by people out of Washington. My concern is a tea party caucus could intrude on that.”
As Think Progress reported yesterday, Rubio is now dismissing the Caucus as a “little club” that, if led by Washington politicians, will cause the movement to “lose its energy”:
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.
In the other chamber of Congress, a number of leading House Republicans have criticized Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for founding the House Tea Party Caucus (which inspired the Senate version). House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) refused to join the caucus, saying the tea party movement is “certainly not of Washington and in that respect it’s better left with the people.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who also refused to join despite his closeness to the tea party, said the movement “should be kept outside Congress.” “The more you try to put structure around the tea party, the more compromised it will be,” Chaffetz wrote warned.
Listen to the audio of Rubio’s interview, which appeared on “The Tray Radel Show” last Friday: