Boehner Says Tea Party Activists Are ‘Tip of the Iceberg’

BY Elizabeth Summers  July 21, 2010 at 5:32 PM EDT

Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann did not ask House Minority Leader John Boehner for permission before launching her new Tea Party Caucus, which met for the first time Wednesday.

In a luncheon sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Boehner told reporters, “She did not ask me beforehand.” He downplayed the fact he will not be joining the caucus, explaining that his long-standing policy has been not to join any caucus except for the Republican Party’s full House caucus.

Boehner went on to praise the tea party movement, saying, “Seventy-five percent of [people who associate themselves with the tea party] are the most average, everyday Americans you have ever met. … These people have been driven off their couch, driven off their chair, away from their television and into the streets of America.”

He warned not to discount them as a political force: “You can laugh at them, you can mock them like some of my colleagues across the aisle have been doing, but I’m going to tell you what, these folks are the tip of the iceberg.”

Boehner chose not to talk at length on the furor surrounding the administration’s [firing and subsequent unfiring](http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20011263-503544.html) of U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod over a videotape of comments that were originally perceivied to be racist, saying only, “I’ll leave these personnel matters in the administration to the administration,” and calling the incident “unfortunate.”

Boehner was not as coy when it came to his aspirations to become the next speaker of the House, a common theme throughout the 45-minute question-and-answer session. Should Republicans win enough seats in the November midterm elections to seize control of the body, “My goal is to become speaker,” the Ohio Republican said.

He went on to discuss the first three things he’d do as speaker. First, he said he would seek repeal of the recently passed health care law. “Obama-care is a giant impediment for employers. Not only will it ruin the best health care system in the world, it will bankrupt our country,” he said.

Second, Boehner said he would prevent debate over greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade legislation from reaching the House floor again. And third, Boehner pledged to not raise people’s taxes.

Democrats have attempted to make hay in recent weeks about the potential fallout from Boehner’s comments comparing financial regulatory reform to “trying to kill an ant with a nuclear weapon,” but Boehner appeared to have no worry that that comment will keep him from his ultimate goal. When asked if he expected any of his colleagues to challenge him for speaker, the minority leader answered confidently, “I don’t think so.”