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 Marie BachmannBoehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Boehner finally calls it as he sees it 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.
While Bachmann said she expects the number of lawmakers in the caucus to increase, the list starts at just 50 members, fewer than the 52 House Republicans who were members of the caucus in the 111th Congress.
"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 FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Arizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems 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 Lee FincherTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP 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 Collins BrounHundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia Joe Lieberman's son running for Senate in Georgia California lawmaker's chief of staff resigns after indictment MORE (R-Ga.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Crypto debate set to return in force Crypto industry seeks to build momentum after losing Senate fight 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 ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail 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.