Washington • The first tea party activists met at dusk in Boston Harbor and launched a movement that led to the American Revolutionary War.
Nearly 238 years later, three Republican U.S. senators who consider themselves compatriots to that effort held court Thursday inside a massive Senate Office Building for their inaugural Senate Tea Party Caucus meeting.
The caucus roster currently lists three members: Utah's Mike Lee, Kentucky's Rand Paul and South Carolina's Jim DeMint. But the trio maintains the tea party movement already has been a success in spurring a revolutionary turn in government.
"I went to my first State of the Union the other day and guess who is now against earmarks?" Paul asked a few dozen supporters who came to cheer on the new caucus. "The president of the United States has been co-opted by the tea party."
Lee, whom an audience member asked to sign her copy of the U.S. Constitution, stressed that the caucus would not speak for the tea party movement because that grass-roots uprising is organic, not controlled by elected officials. But he said the caucus serves an important role in fighting for causes Americans want, similar to what colonists fought for in 1773.
"They showed up," Lee said, "to protest against a large distant national government that was taxing the people too much."
The freshman Utah senator also quoted from this week's State of the Union speech, noting that President Barack Obama said Americans live within their means and their government should, too a point Lee says the tea party has pushed.
"There is a difference," Lee said. "We mean it; he doesn't."
DeMint, whose political action committee proved vital in helping Lee and Paul win office, said the senators understand that they wouldn't be in Congress if not for tea party support. DeMint added that he was grateful for some assistance in cutting government spending.
"Thank you for sending me some help," DeMint said.
But the first meeting of the official tea party caucus didn't go without a hiccup. After a half-hour delay and another 30 minutes of speeches, DeMint was reminded that the group hadn't yet said the Pledge of Allegiance.
Then again, America's first tea party activists didn't do that, either.