Senate Tea Party Caucus Says Movement Won’t be ‘Co-Opted’ by Washington

By Christopher Goins | January 31, 2011 | 4:05 AM EST

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (AP Photo)

( - Senate Tea Party Caucus members and Tea Party leaders say their movement isn’t run by anyone – and it won’t be co-opted by anyone either.

Newly elected Tea Party candidate Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) stressed the bottom-up nature of the Tea Party Movement at the first Senate Tea Party Caucus last Thursday.

“None of us, neither Sen. DeMint, nor Sen. Paul, nor I, nor this caucus purports to speak for the Tea Party Movement,” Lee said emphasizing the non-bureaucratic nature of the popular and effective grass-roots movement.

“The movement is what it is,” he added. “It is far from a party or any single organization. It is an organically-grown, spontaneous, nationwide, grassroots, political phenomenon.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), asked if the movement had been “co-opted,” emphasized just the opposite -- saying that the movement itself may be “co-opting Washington." As evidence, he pointed to the president’s opposition to earmarks in his State of the Union address.  

“The president of the United States has been co-opted by the Tea Party,” Paul quipped, adding that the president didn’t like taking that position.

Paul, who spoke about his plan to reduce the federal budget by $500 billion per year and to force the federal government to balance the budget by law, said if there is anything co-opting the movement, it is fiscal issues “dangling over them like the sword of Damocles.”

Paul said Americans now realize that the Tea Party is not a concoction of Washington.

“Many people in the beginning said (of) the Tea Party ‘Oh, it’s just a concoction of some news network or some conservative in Washington.’ It wasn’t. I think they are finally and truly understanding that it isn’t. It isn’t created in Washington. It is everywhere across the country, city by city.”

Amy Kremer, chairwoman of Tea Party Express, said the movement is about “fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets.”

“This movement is engaged. They’re educating. They’re researching. They’re learning about all these things and how all this stuff has worked for a long time and they are saying ‘No more,’” she said.

The caucus, which was conducted at the Hart Senate Building, was packed, but Kremer read Facebook postings from people who could not attend in person.

One Philadelphia Facebook user, she said, wrote: “Let them know we want them to represent their people, not their party.”

Another, from California, asked: “What does the Department of Education actually do for us? They need to show us real productivity and cause for their existence. Just having this department because it has always been done is not acceptable. If they don’t legitimately serve a purpose, eliminate them.”

Sen. Lee made several comparisons between the original Boston Tea Party and the new tea party, and noted that they, too, were upset with the status quo in Washington.

Lee said the Boston Tea Party of 1773 “showed up to protest against a large, distant national government. It was taxing the people too much. It was regulating the people oppressively. It operated so far from the people that it was slow to respond to the needs of the people."

"And so they spoke loud and clear about what they did not want out of their national government" he added.

To show how grassroots the Tea Party is, he added that one Tea Party movement doesn’t always know or communicate with another Tea Party within the same state.

“What I love about the Tea Party movement is that we look like the free-market process. We voluntarily associate. We communicate with each other. We partner with each other. We trade and work on ideas at the local level. And that's where this intense power came from on Election Day,” said Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks. Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks.