OTR Interviews

Bachmann: Tea Party Is 'Keeping Us Honest'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 25, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: When you think Tea Party, chances are you think Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She is a Tea Party favorite, and she started on the road addressing Tea Party rallies across America and is the founder of the House Tea Party Caucus. But does the congresswoman think the Tea Party movement is taken seriously on Capitol Hill?

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Congresswoman, nice to see you.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN.: Great to see you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, the Tea Party -- is there a way to explain or put in words the impact it's currently having in the United States Congress?

BACHMANN: It's having a tremendous impact here in the United States Congress. Probably the best way to describe it is we were looking at savings for the taxpayers, and there was going to be a number something less than $100 billion. And all of the Tea Party influence, together with the new freshmen that came in, said, We demand a minimum of $100 billion cuts, and they got it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you feel a little bit like the Tea Party, though, is a little bit of a thorn in the side of some members of the Republican Party here in the House, that you're a little annoying?

BACHMANN: Well, you know, it may seem that way at first. But actually, the better results have been coming from that. And I think that leadership has actually appreciated it.

VAN SUSTEREN: The Tea Party sort of evolved. It never had a leader.

People now sort of look to you as being the leader. Do you consider yourself the leader of the Tea Party?

BACHMANN: No, I'm not. I'm not the leaders because the great thing about the Tea Party is that it's truly the American people, and it cuts across party lines. And it's people who aren't political at all. It's people who look to Washington and say, I don't like what these guys and gals are doing. They're spending way too much money. They aren't getting rid of the government takeover of health care. And what's this with us still owning private industries? They're wanting us to change and get away from that. And so they really are keeping us honest.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of meetings that you have on the Hill with other members of Congress who are not members of the Tea Party or don't spend a lot of time talking to the Tea Party, do they talk about the Tea Party and realize it's sort of...

BACHMANN: Oh, yes!

VAN SUSTEREN: ... looking over their shoulder?

BACHMANN: Oh, yes. Absolutely, they do. I just came from voting on the floor, and we were just having a conversation about what people back home, who, generally speaking, the people are paying attention right now, consider themselves Tea Party. And they're telling me that they're talking with Tea Party people back home. And we have the Tea Party caucus here.

So part of our Tea Party Caucus is, again, we're the listening ear of the American people, we're not necessarily their mouthpiece. So we're inviting them in. We're inviting people from all across the country. And we're trying to put the technology together right now, Greta, so that people from all across the country can have a national town hall with us on a regular basis. So I'm trying to get that implemented, and then we want to let people know how they can access whatever the address is or the phone number. And we'll do that and we'll have national town halls on a regular basis because how great in real time if people could talk to their members of Congress about legislation that comes up, say, this week.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would you agree that the Tea Party is a subset of the Republican Party and some independents? There are very few Democrats.

Would you agree with that?

BACHMANN: I would say there actually were more Democrats than what you would think, a tremendous number of people who maybe aren't, like, hard-line Democrats, but they have voted for, let's say, President Obama in the past. They've decided this is not what they bargained for, and so they were part of the effort that gave the so-called shellacking in November. They voted for people who are not for the current agenda in Washington.

And it really is. I mean, it is truly Democrats, truly independents, apolitical people, and even, like, Constitution Party people and libertarians. It is the broadest section of the American electorate that there is right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have the sense that the Tea Party people have become Tea Party, some of them, to a large extent because they feel the Republican Party, which (INAUDIBLE) principles that they adopt, has strayed?

BACHMANN: Oh, sure. Yes, I think...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... disappointment with the Republican Party


BACHMANN: It's a disappointment party, you might say, in some ways.

You know, they're disappointed, but really, these are the greatest people in the world, Greta, because they really are forward-looking, thinking.

They're very worried about the debt, and they should be. They're very worried with the overspending. They don't see that Congress here quite gets it when they look at these new staggering numbers that are coming out about the new budget in 2012. So they want to know, are we going to listen to them or we're going to do something about it?

VAN SUSTEREN: Are they more activist, then? Is that a way to describe them?

BACHMANN: Yes. Very. Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... Some people who would just go out and vote every two years. ...

BACHMANN: No, they're highly activist. As a matter of fact, you won't believe the number of members here who tell me when they go home, they'll have a Tea Party meeting and 600 people will come, 2,000 people will come. This is not a couple of Augusts ago in summer. This is now. This is happening every weekend. Members across the country are going home, having meetings like we all have over the weekends, and they're getting 600 and 1,000 people to show up at their meeting.