Tea Party Caucus

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Tea Party Caucus
FounderMichele Bachmann
FoundedJuly 19, 2010; 12 years ago (2010-07-19)
Political positionRight-wing[8] to far-right[9]
National affiliationRepublican Party
Seats in the Senate
12 / 100
Seats in House Republican Caucus
19 / 199
Seats in the House
19 / 435
Official website

The Tea Party Caucus (TPC) was a congressional caucus of conservative members of the Republican Party in the United States House of Representatives. The Caucus was founded in July 2010 by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in coordination with the Tea Party movement the year following the movement's 2009 creation. Bachmann served as the Caucus's first chair.[10]

From July 2012 to April 2013 the Tea Party Caucus neither met nor posted news on its webpage, leading observers to describe it as "dead," "inactive," and "defunct."[11][12] In April 2013, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina filed paperwork to create a new Tea Party Caucus, but found that Bachmann intended to continue the caucus, starting with an event on April 25, 2013.[13] On June 19, 2014, Tea Party Caucus member Steve Scalise of Louisiana was elected as the House Majority Whip.[14] The Caucus was reconstituted in the 114th Congress in January 2015.[15] Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas became the chair in February 2015.[16] Huelskamp lost party primary election in 2016. The Caucus is now largely inactive. Though the primary functions of the Caucus have varied from year to year, its members have promoted budget cuts, including significant cuts in non-defense spending and adherence to the movement's interpretation of the Constitution. The caucus's members have also advocated socially conservative legislation, supported the right to keep and bear arms, and promoted limited government.

The idea of a Tea Party Caucus originated from Rand Paul (KY) when he was campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 2010.[citation needed] The Caucus was approved as an official congressional member organization by the House Administration Committee on July 19, 2010,[17] and held its first meeting and public event, a press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, on July 21.[18] A similar informal Caucus was formed in the Senate by four Senators on January 27, 2011.[2][note 1]

While there was no official announcement, the Tea Party Caucus appears to be defunct since approximately late 2016 and most of its members are now caucusing with either the Freedom Caucus or the Liberty Caucus. Although the Tea Party is not a party in the classic sense of the word, research has shown that members of the Tea Party Caucus vote like a third party in Congress.[19]


Tea Party movement[edit]

Chairs of the House Tea Party Caucus
Michele Bachmann
Tim Huelskamp

The Tea Party Caucus grew out of the Tea Party movement, a conservative populist political movement that emerged in 2009 in the United States, generally opposing excessive taxation and government intervention in the private sector while supporting stronger immigration controls.[20] On February 19, 2009,[21] in a broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, CNBC Business News Network editor Rick Santelli loudly criticized the government plan to refinance mortgages as "promoting bad behavior" by "subsidizing losers' mortgages", and raised the possibility of putting together a "Chicago Tea Party in July".[22][23] A number of the traders and brokers around him cheered on his proposal, to the apparent amusement of the hosts in the studio. It was called "the rant heard round the world".[24] Santelli's remarks "set the fuse to the modern anti-Obama Tea Party movement", according to journalist Lee Fang.[25]

The following day after Santelli's comments from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, 50 national conservative leaders, including Michael Johns, Amy Kremer and Jenny Beth Martin, participated in a conference call that gave birth to the national Tea Party movement.[26][27] In response to Santelli, websites such as ChicagoTeaParty.com, registered in August 2008 by Chicago radio producer Zack Christenson, were live within twelve hours.[28] About 10 hours after Santelli's remarks, reTeaParty.com was bought to coordinate Tea Parties scheduled for the 4th of July and within two weeks was reported to be receiving 11,000 visitors a day.[28] However, on the contrary, many scholars are reluctant to label Santelli's remarks the "spark" of the Tea Party considering that a "Tea Party" protest had taken place 3 days before in Seattle, Washington[29] In fact, this had led many opponents of the Tea Party to define this movement as "astroturfed," but it seems as if Santelli's comments did not "fall on deaf ears" considering that, "the top 50 counties in foreclosure rates played host to over 910 Tea Party protests, about one-sixth of the total".[29]

An article in Politico stated that many Tea Party activists see the Caucus as an effort by the Republican Party to hijack the movement. Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz refused to join the Caucus, saying "Structure and formality are the exact opposite of what the Tea Party is, and if there is an attempt to put structure and formality around it, or to co-opt it by Washington, D.C., it’s going to take away from the free-flowing nature of the true tea party movement."[30]

In an attempt to quell fears that Washington insiders were attempting to co-opt the Tea Party movement, Michele Bachmann stated "We're not the mouthpiece. We are not taking the Tea Party and controlling it from Washington, D.C. We are also not here to vouch for the Tea Party or to vouch for any Tea Party organizations or to vouch for any individual people or actions, or billboards or signs or anything of the Tea Party. We are the receptacle."[31][32]

Additionally, Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Marco Rubio of Florida, all Tea Party supporters, refused to join the caucus.[33][34] Toomey said he would be "open" to joining, and spoke at the first meeting, but did not ultimately join.[35] Johnson said that he declined to join because he wanted to "work towards a unified Republican Conference, so that's where I will put my energy."[36] Rubio criticized the caucus, saying "My fear has always been that if you start creating these little clubs or organizations in Washington run by politicians, the movement starts to lose its energy."[37]


Senators Rand Paul (R) and Ted Cruz (R), both members of the Senate's informal Tea Party Caucus, address a Tea Party Express rally.

The Tea Party Caucus is often viewed as taking conservative positions, and advocating for both social and fiscal conservatism.[38] Analysis of voting patterns confirm that Caucus members are more conservative than other House Republicans, especially on fiscal matters.[38][39] Voting trends to the right of the median Republican, and Tea Party Caucus members represent more conservative, southern and affluent districts.[39][40] Supporters of the Tea Party movement itself are largely economic driven.[41][42][43]

Despite the Caucus members differing degrees of economic and social conservatism, they generally work to promote positions within the House of Representatives that are to the right-of those of the House Republican Conference.[44] Caucus members are an important swing vote on spending bills and as a result have gained influence in Congress out of proportion to their numbers.[45][46] They are frequently sought after to broker compromises amongst the Republican leadership, generally lending a more right-wing character to U.S. politics.[47] Since the advent of the Tea Party Caucus in 2010, party-line voting has increased for both Democrats and Republicans.[48]


According to OpenSecrets, the top contributors to the Tea Party Caucus members are health professionals, retirees, the real estate industry and oil and gas interests. The Center said the contributions to Caucus members from these groups, plus those from Republican and conservative groups, are on average higher than those of House members in general and also those of other Republicans. The average Tea Party Caucus member received more than $25,000 from the oil and gas industry, compared to about $13,000 for the average House member and $21,500 for the average House Republican.[49]

List of current members[edit]


The Caucus chair was Michele Bachmann of Minnesota between 2010 and her retirement in 2015. Tim Huelskamp was elected as the Caucus' second chair in January 2015, but was defeated in the 2016 Republican primary by Roger Marshall.[15] Of a possible 435 Representatives, as of January 6, 2013, the committee had 48 members, all Republicans.[50] At its height, the Caucus had 60 members in 2011.

Several members of the Tea Party Caucus were part of the Republican leadership. Tom Price served as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, making him the seventh ranking Republican in the House, John R. Carter was the Secretary of the House Republican Conference, ranking him the ninth ranking Republican, and Pete Sessions was the number six Republican as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Other former members of the Tea Party Caucus held committee chairmanships such as Lamar S. Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

112th Congress Tea Party Caucus membership map.










South Carolina


West Virginia

Former members[edit]


The Senate has an informal Tea Party Caucus,[note 1] founded in 2011.[53][54]

Former members[edit]

Affiliated organizations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b In the Senate, there is only one officially recognized caucus: the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, as established by law in 1985. Unlike House caucuses, Senate groups receive neither official recognition nor funding from the chamber.


  1. ^ Jared A. Goldstein (2011). "The Tea Party Movement and the Perils of Popular Originalism" (PDF). Roger Williams University.
  2. ^ a b c d Herszenhorn, David M. (January 27, 2011). "Senate Tea Party Caucus Holds First Meeting". New York Times.
  3. ^ Bryan T. Gervais; Irwin L. Morris (March 2012). "Reading the Tea Leaves: Understanding Tea Party Caucus Membership in the US House of Representatives". PS: Political Science & Politics. 45 (2): 245–250. doi:10.1017/S1049096511002058. S2CID 154605233.
  4. ^ "Brewing tensions between the Tea Party and GOP". Reuters. March 18, 2010.
  5. ^ "The Tea Party's religious roots exposed". The Guardian. October 12, 2010.
  6. ^ "The Tea Party and Religion". Pew Research Center. February 23, 2011.
  7. ^ Vanessa Williamson; Theda Skocpol; John Coggin (March 2011). "The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism". Perspectives on Politics. 9: 25–43. doi:10.1017/S153759271000407X. S2CID 233315323.
  8. ^ G. Bruce Doern; Allan M. Maslove; Michael J. Prince, eds. (April 19, 2013). Canadian Public Budgeting in the Age of Crises: Shifting Budgetary Domains and Temporal Budgeting. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 71. ISBN 9781317755098. The issue was forced by a group of right-wing Republicans (the Tea Party caucus) who used their leverage after the 2010 Congressional election to turn this usually routine procedure into a major confrontation in the summer of 2011 over the budget and the future role that the US government might play in the econ-omy.
  9. ^ "Tea Party goes cold as US voters reject the far right". The Conversation. November 8, 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  10. ^ Sherman, Jake (July 16, 2010). "Bachmann forms Tea Party Caucus". Politico. Retrieved August 4, 2010.
  11. ^ Weigel, Dave (March 20, 2013). "The Tea Party Caucus is Dead and That's OK". Slate. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  12. ^ Newhauser, Daniel (March 20, 2013). "What Happened to the Tea Party Caucus?". Roll Call. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  13. ^ Strong, Jonathan (April 24, 2013). "Tea Party Caucus to Relaunch With Event Thursday". The Hill. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  14. ^ Melissa Quinn / @MelissaQuinn97 / June 19, 2014 / (June 19, 2014). "House Republicans Elect McCarthy as Majority Leader". Dailysignal.com. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
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  20. ^ Michael Ray (2022). "Tea Party movement". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  21. ^ McGrath, Ben (February 1, 2010). "The Movement: The Rise of Tea Party Activism". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 30, 2010.
  22. ^ Rick Santelli: I Want to Set the Record Straight.CNBC. March 2, 2009
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  24. ^ "Answer Desk: Housing relief backlash – Answer Desk". NBC News. February 23, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2010.
  25. ^ Fang, Lee (2013). The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right. The New Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-59558-639-1.
  26. ^ "Tea Party: Palin's Pet, Or Is There More To It Underneath". April 15, 2014. Archived from the original on April 15, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
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  28. ^ a b A Growing "Tea Party" Movement?, Jonathan V. Last, Weekly Standard, March 4, 2009
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  31. ^ Janie Lorber (July 21, 2010). "Tea Party Caucus Tackles Racism Charge". NY Times.
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External links[edit]