Top Republicans Split With the Tea Party

Jim Mone / AP

It’s the day of reckoning for Republicans and the Tea Party. Since the grassroots movement started, the GOP has gone to lengths to harness the frustration and mobilization of angry right-wing voters without getting too close to the movement that’s been accused of things like lack of organization and even racism.

But Michele Bachmann apparently didn’t get that memo. The Tea Party sweetheart took the movement to the next level by applying to form a Tea Party caucus in the House--a request that was approved. Caucuses go nowhere unless they have members, so when Bachmann went to fill the group’s ranks, GOP leaders did a nervous dance. John Boehner said wouldn't. Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy claimed to be undecided.

Caucus membership lists usually aren’t such telling indicators. As of March, there were almost 300 registered caucus groups, most of which never meet, let alone actually advocate for the issue that brings them together. But the way some GOP members back off from official Tea Party membership seems to reveal how they really feel about the movement. Judging from the Republican leadership two-step, apparently not very good.

UPDATE: A Boehner press staffer calls to clarify that it's the minority leader's policy not to join any caucus except the party's full House caucus, which he leads.