Fewer than a dozen Republican freshmen have joined the House Tea Party Caucus, so far — a relatively anemic number given the size of the class and the fact that many were helped to victory in 2010 by Tea Party activists.
Led by Rep. Michele BachmannMichele BachmannLobbying world Trump camp reassures pastors after abortion ruling Falwell faces flak for posing with Trump in front of Playboy MORE (R-Minn.), the House Tea Party Caucus held its first meeting of the 112th Congress at the Capitol late Monday with an estimated 30 members in attendance, including freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.). He's one of just 11 House freshmen who have joined to this point.
"We've just started, so we expect that number to increase," Bachmann said after the meeting. "We had a very good showing this evening. We had far more people come than we had RSVPs for."
Monday's meeting, which was closed to the press, was dominated by talk of the continuing resolution and the looming vote to raise the debt ceiling, according to members in attendance. West said Tea Party activists pushed members to stand firm on spending cuts and the debt limit.
"They don't want us to get pushed around, which is exactly what I believe in," he said. "You've got to stand firm or you're going to lose credibility."
Rep. Trent FranksTrent FranksGOP rebuffs doctors on gun research House GOP considers options post-Orlando Indian leader touts US relations in Congress speech MORE (R-Ariz.), a member of the caucus who's also weighing a 2012 Senate bid, said there was discussion of tying any vote to raise the debt limit to a serious concession from House Democrats — a vote on a constitutional balanced-budget amendment, for example.
Neither Franks nor West expressed any real concern about the small number of GOP freshmen who have joined the caucus so far.
West said he's not sure whether more freshmen will join, but said he made the decision to do so "because this is a constitutional conservative grassroots movement. It's the American people and I'm supposed to be up here standing up for the American people."
The 11 freshmen Republicans who have joined the caucus are Reps. Sandy Adams (Fla.), Tim Huelskamp (Kansas), Stephen FincherStephen FincherRep. Fincher to retire Export-Import Bank takes step toward renewal Transportation deal includes Ex-Im renewal MORE (Tenn.), Vicky Hartzler (Mo.), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Dennis Ross (Fla.), Marlin Stutzman (Ind.), Tim Walberg (Mich.), Rich Nugent (Fla.), Joe Walsh (Ill.) and West.
Of the 28 founding members of the House Tea Party caucus, at least three have not yet decided to join the caucus for the 112th Congress — Reps. Paul BrounPaul BrounCalifornia lawmaker's chief of staff resigns after indictment Republican candidates run against ghost of John Boehner The Trail 2016: Let’s have another debate! MORE (R-Ga.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Cynthia LummisCynthia LummisGOP threatens Kerry with another Keystone subpoena The Hill's 12:30 Report GOP women push Trump on VP pick MORE (R-Wy.).
"It has more to do with time management," Lummis told The Hill late Monday. "I'm going to be a little judicious this year. I may join later but for now I'm just trying to manage my time a little better than I have in the past."
Rep. Tim ScottTim ScottTrump veepstakes in overdrive Police: 3 killed in Tel Aviv terrorist shooting GOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo MORE (R-S.C.), one of the stars of the Republican freshman class, said Monday he could join the caucus at some point, but hasn't yet given it any thought.
"Between leadership and the rules committee, I'm just not thinking about anything else right now," Scott said.