- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The top House Republican dismissed concerns that his party’s cozy relationship with the conservative “tea party” will turn off voters in November, saying it would be wrong to ignore the growing movement. 

”We should listen to them, we should work with them and we should walk amongst them,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said during a Wednesday luncheon with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor news service.

Mr. Boehner, who said he has attended several tea party events throughout the country, acknowledged the gatherings typically include smatterings of “disaffected Republicans,” Democrats and “a couple of anarchists who want to kill all of us in public office.”

But “75 percent of these people who show up at these events are the most average, everyday Americans you’ve ever met,” he said. “None of them have ever been involved in the political process, and I would guess half of them have never voted.”

Mr. Boehner added that tea party activists represent “the tip of the iceberg” of Americans disenchanted with their government.

“They represent the same values, concerns, frustration, anger and fear that you see from tens of millions of other Americans who aren’t in the streets yet,” he said. “They should not be dismissed, they shouldn’t be mocked.”

Mr. Boehner’s comments came a couple of hours after the first meeting of the new House Tea Party Caucus, organized last week by outspoken Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The minority leader said Mrs. Bachmann didn’t inform him beforehand of her intention to start the caucus.

When asked if he would join, Mr. Boehner said it’s his policy not to join congressional caucuses because “you get labeled.”

Mrs. Bachmann, speaking with reporters Wednesday, rejected claims by Democrats and even some Republicans that the tea party is an extremist movement, saying that its followers “represent mainstream American people who have decided to get up off the couch because they want to take their country back.”

“They’ve come essentially under a banner of three things and it’s this: They believe that we are taxed enough already; that the federal government should not spend more money than it takes in; and that Congress should act within the constitutional limitations as given to us by the Founding Fathers,” she said.

The caucus so far includes 31 members  all Republicans  according to Mrs. Bachmann’s congressional website.