Rep. Bachmann's Tea Party Earmarkers: House Caucus' Big Spenders Got $1 Billion In Pork

December 02, 2010 12:25 pm ET — Alan Pyke

Rep. Michele Bachmann

When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) announced she would lead a Tea Party Caucus in the House, right-wing House members rushed to sign up for some easy street cred with tea-minded voters and activists. This morning, Hotline On Call reports that TPC members aren't really all that committed to the low-spending small-government ideal the movement claims to represent:

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

For a powerful political movement, the Tea Party sometimes has trouble articulating its driving purpose. Debates between fiscal and social conservatives about the movement's priorities are a regular occurrence, and it remains to be seen whether rank-and-file activists will follow Sen. Jim Demint's (R-SC) dictum that social and economic conservatism are inseparable.

In the meantime, Dave Weigel points out that a Tea Party Earmarkers Caucus in the House seems like a pretty effective co-optation of the movement by the establishment: "This gets at the worry activists had about the caucus at the outset -- that mere membership was a way for members of Congress to sort of Tea-wash themselves without walking a line on policy."