It’s no surprise that the ranks of Tea Party groups have grown exponentially over the last year, given the Obama administration’s agenda of massive government expansion. For every attempted or actual industry takeover — cars, student loans, health care, finance, energy — millions more Americans came to join tea partiers’ outrage over the tightening grip of big government.

After meeting with various Tea Party leaders and participating in their rallies in Indiana and Washington, it is clear to me that Tea Parties are not a fringe or radical element that the media paints them to be, but rather a movement very much in line with the conservatism that most Americans personally identify with. You don’t need a tri-corner hat to know that every government takeover breeds worsening national debt and higher taxes. You don’t need to march with a replica musket to understand that America has sharply diverged from its Constitution and our Founders’ intent.

Even so, I believe Tea Partiers deserve special recognition because they are engaged in their communities, constructive in their comments, and they do everything with an inspiring brand of patriotism. Here in central Indiana, I continue to be impressed by groups like the Hoosier Patriots in Hamilton County and the Kokomo Tea Party in Howard County. These groups are led by concerned mothers and small business owners who have personally financed and spent countless hours gathering concerned citizens to engage their government.

As recognition of their efforts, and because I personally identify with their core goal of bringing the Constitution back to the forefront of government, I became a charter member of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus. As one of many avenues of constituent outreach, this caucus will be a listening ear for Tea Party organizations and stepping-stone for their membership to be more involved in the legislative process. While we are in the early stages of developing our goals for the Tea Party Caucus, I believe we are all working toward the day where the formation of a constitutionally minded group in Congress is not a controversial or newsworthy item.