Rand Paul: Tea Party won't break away

One of the Senate's few self-identified Tea Party members says it is unlikely the grassroots movement will break with the GOP and form a third party. 

Freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in an interview published Thursday that the Tea Party has helped expand the reach of the Republican Party.

Asked by the Lexington Herald-Leader if he sees the Tea Party movement becoming a viable third party, Paul said, "I don't think so."

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"Right now it is a great advantage to us in the Republican Party because it has grown the Republican Party," he said.

Although Tea Party activists and their favored lawmakers have put tremendous pressure on Republican leaders over spending, Paul's comments suggest there is a limit to how far they will go in distancing themselves from the GOP.

During the 2010 midterm campaign season, the first in which the Tea Party played a major role, several lawmakers, candidates and pundits said the Tea Party could splinter off from the Republican Party if leaders do not take action on their legislative priorities.

Still, Tea Party-backed members have continued to push for deeper spending cuts as Congress considers legislation to continue funding the government.

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Paul, the son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), even said this week he would vote against a House-passed plan that would cut $61 billion from current spending levels, saying the cuts do not go far enough.

Paul predicted that the small-government movement will last "as long as government continues with excessive spending."

The first-term senator is on a media tour to promote his new book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington.