Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the energetic and ambitious organizer of the 52-member House Tea Party Caucus, is moving to capitalize on her ties to the grassroots movement by seeking a top post in the GOP’s new House majority leadership.
“Constitutional conservatives deserve a loud and clear voice in leadership,” said Bachmann, in a posting on her Facebook page.
“I am pleased to announce that I am running for chairman of the House Republican Conference!” said Bachmann, referring to what will be the No. 4 post in the new House majority.
Bachmann’s announcement comes as Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind. – who currently holds the job of GOP conference leader – announced earlier today that he would not be seeking reelection to the job, to possibly explore runs for other office.
Newly elected and reelected GOP House members will meet behind closed doors later this month to pick their leaders for the new congressional session that begins in January.
But Bachmann's decision to seek Pence’s job threatens to create fissures within the ranks of the new majority. At the very least, it could set up a loyalty test of sorts.
Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said today that he is backing Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who has also officially announced he wants the post. Hensarling is a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and has been active in raising campaign money for fellow Republicans.
Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Jason Chaffetz of Utah have let Speaker-to-be John Boehner, R-Ohio, know they are interested, too.
The current Republican Conference Vice Chair, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, wrote to Republican colleagues today seeking their support for her reelection to the vice chairman's job. She had been considering vying for conference chair, but apparently was not so willing as Bachmann to take on Cantor's favored candidate.
Bachmann spokesman Sergio Gor said the congresswoman is not deterred by the field of possible opponents, or that Cantor is backing someone else in the race.
Gor said Tuesday night’s election results included victories by a significant number of “constitutional conservatives,” and that Bachmann sees herself as someone who represents and elevated their issues to the leadership table. Constitutional conservatives is a relatively new term used to describe the activists in the tea party movement, but Gor said it is not an effort to rebrand the movement or divide it.
Boehner and other leaders are said to be considering creating a new post for someone who would represent, specifically, the interests of freshman members at leadership meetings, one leadership aide said last week.
Whether Bachmann would want, or be considered for such a post -- as opposed to the conference chairman's job -- is uncertain.