There is considerable speculation in Tea Party circles and throughout the blogosphere regarding whether or not Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) will join the newly formed Senate Tea Party Caucus. Many Tea Party leaders are wondering out loud whether or not Rubio will join his staunch ally and mentor Senator Jim DeMint, who has joined the caucus along with fellow Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT). Rubio has released a statement from his office regarding the matter, and coupled with the fact that he did not immediately sign on to the Senate Tea Party Caucus, chatter is growing that Senator Rubio is already distancing himself from the very movement that helped him get elected.
There’s no doubt that Rubio needs to be held accountable for the principles and positions he advocated on the campaign trail, but does it necessarily follow that Rubio should immediately join the “Tea Party” Caucus in the Senate? Having closely followed Rubio and the campaign from its beginnings, Rubio is both cognizant and grateful of the support he received early on from the Tea Party movement which ultimately led to his victory. In fact, Rubio was labeled a “Tea Party” candidate early in his campaign because of the numerous rallies that he attended, not to mention that he ran a bare-bones campaign across the state for much of the election cycle. Time and again, Rubio’s emotion-filled speeches on the stump strongly resonated and aligned with the Tea Party’s shared principles. Along his road to victory, Rubio made many promises and assurances to voters about how he would vote if elected to the U.S. Senate- but does that mean Rubio should immediately dive head first into the Senate Tea Party Caucus?
As of this moment, the Senate Tea Party Caucus has no clearly defined platform, and it is not expected to have the same power and influence like the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives led by Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. It should also be noted that Senators already have wide discretion and individual authority to stop legislation on their own, and there may not be any real need to form a caucus since they each have the ability to filibuster and stop movement on legislation.
So before folks go flying off the rails as to whether or not Rubio or any other Senator for that matter should join the Senate Tea Party Caucus, the jury remains out not only on what the Caucus stands for, but also what specific budgetary recommendations and cuts it would call for, as well as what clear functional purpose it would serve in the Senate. And if it serves no functional purpose, the Senate Tea Party Caucus has been formed for primarily a public relations purpose– to issue periodic statements to the press that perhaps might have more weight than had each Senator made the same statement on their own. If that’s the case, then perhaps the Senate Tea Party Caucus is not necessary and extraneous not only to the legislative process, but also to advancing the principles that the Tea Party (as well as we here at the Shark Tank) hold dear.
Let’s not forget that the Tea Party started out simply as a ‘movement’ of American citizens concerned with the direction the Obama Administration was taking the country. The movement’s identity was formed on when these same citizens took to street corners and to the steps of federal buildings to demand that their voices be heard. The Tea Party’s broad sentiments have generally been resistant to the creation of additional organizational structures, and the movement is properly much more concerned about its preferred candidates’ adherence to the Constitution, commitment to fiscal responsibility, and advocacy of limited government. Ultimately, this is what voters need to hold Rubio and other “Tea Party” candidates across the nation accountable for.