McConnell Quietly Befriends Tea Party Caucus

by Jonathan Strong

The Tea Party Caucus is turning its eye to the Senate and enlisting the help of a powerful new friend.

The legislators’ group, along with TheTeaParty.net, will be co-hosting its second event of this Congress, on July 23, to discuss the IRS scandal, immigration, and Obamacare. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell helped secure the Strom Thurmond room in the Capitol building for the meeting and provided a “great deal of help and assistance,” according to Niger Innis, the chief strategist for the group.

McConnell’s effort is one of many gestures he’s made over the past year to signal his affinity with the tea-party movement. He recently hired longtime Ron Paul hand Jesse Benton, who has experience in libertarian circles and grassroots organizing, to run his reelection campaign. 

The Senate meeting follows an April event to re-launch the House Tea Party Caucus, chaired by Representative Michele Bachmann, which had been in a period of dormancy. Twenty House lawmakers and staff from 20 other congressional offices attended that meeting.

Innis asked Senator Rand Paul on a live radio interview earlier Wednesday whether he could attend the July 23 event, and Paul said he hoped to. Innis has also had conversations with the offices of Senators Marco Rubio, Jeff Sessions, and Ron Johnson. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is expected to be there as well, and McConnell himself may attend. 

The event will be mostly focused on the Senate, but since immigration has moved to the House, Innis said he expected there to be a robust conversation about how the lower chamber should tackle the issue. TheTeaParty.net opposes the Senate bill, and recently issued its own immigration principles. McConnell voted against the Gang of Eight’s bill last month.