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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Senate Tea Party Caucus holds first meeting without some who had embraced banner

From The Washington Post:

The Republican senators who rode the tea party wave to victory in the fall are now weighing whether that label will help them on Capitol Hill or become a scarlet letter.

Thursday offered the first clear illustration of their situation as the newly formed Senate Tea Party Caucus held its inaugural meeting without three of the senators who won election under the tea party banner.

"I sprang from the tea party and have great respect for what it represents," said Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (R-Wis.), a polyester and plastics manufacturer who entered politics last year and defeated Sen. Russell Feingold, a Democrat who had held his seat for 18 years.

Johnson emerged as one of the tea party movement's bright stars but has decided not to join the Tea Party Caucus because he fears doing so could be divisive. Instead, he wants to bring tea party ideas under the broader Republican umbrella.

"The reason I ran for the U.S. Senate was to not only stop the Obama agenda but reverse it," he said in a statement. "I believe our best chance of doing that is to work towards a unified Republican Conference so that's where I will put my energy."

The decisions of Johnson and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) not to join the Tea Party Caucus underscore the fissures within the Republican Party as it seeks to build an effective governing coalition in Washington while satisfying an emboldened conservative base outside the Beltway. And for the tea party, the new Congress presents a test of whether the movement's activist momentum can continue within the rhythms and business of governing.

Freshman Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) joined Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in starting the Tea Party Caucus as a venue for promoting tea party ideals - cutting spending and bringing down the federal debt, for example. The only other senator to join was freshman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

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