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Sen. Rand Paul Says Obama "Co-Opted By Tea Party" At First Senate Caucus Meeting

Kevin Douglas Grant |
January 27, 2011 | 11:09 a.m. PST

Executive Editor

Despite a grand total of three members, the Senate Tea Party Caucus is still whooping it up on Capitol Hill if their first meeting is any indication.

Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) presided over the event Thursday morning, during which "speaker after speaker took direct aim at Obama and predicted that Republicans will take back the Senate in 2012; at several times during the event, audience members interrupted speakers with polite applause and shouts of 'Amen!'"

The group may be gaining a fourth member, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), but has not gained the support of Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI) or Pat Toomey (R-PA).

Paul may have taken the cake when he contended that President Obama's agenda, as laid out in his State of the Union address, was inspired by the Tea Party.

"'I went to my first State of the Union the other day, and guess who's now against earmarks?' Paul asked, adding that the president has now been 'co-opted by the tea party.'"

The group's leadership worked to frame the identity of the Tea Party as anti-authoritarian.  For example, Lee told CNN Thursday that he wasn't trying to "replace the Republican party" while DeMint told the crowd:  "We're not trying to instutionalize you."

Party leaders have often referred to the group as a "leaderless movement," placing it on an ideological collision course with the concept of elected natonal leadership.

Lee continued:  "We're not intending for this to be a full-blown influential caucus.  We're intending this to be a conduit for information to pass between individuals who sympathize with the Tea Party movement and the United States Senate."

But some of his colleagues seem to have grander ambitions.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.