For Rep. Michele Bachmann, Thursday hearkened back to the halcyon days of 2009, when her Tea Party supporters flocked to the U.S. Capitol and she led Republican opposition to President Obama’s health care law.
Tea Party rally? Check. House vote to repeal Obamacare? Check.
The Tea Partiers rallied around the Minnesota Republican in the morning to express their outrage over the IRS’s disclosure that it had targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Hours later, by a vote of 229-195, the GOP-led House passed its 37th attempt to defund all or part of the health care law, a measure championed by Bachmann. “This issue is now revived,” Bachmann said of the repeal bill. “It’s back on the table.”
While the IRS scandal has breathed new life into the once-moribund Tea Party movement, analysts give the House-passed repeal measure no chance of even getting a hearing in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But Bachmann still plans to ride the issue in Minnesota, where she has launched a two-week television ad blitz focusing on the repeal of Obamacare, an issue that helped thrust her into the national spotlight three years ago and that became no small part of her 2012 presidential bid.
The ad campaign, 18 months before voters go to the polls, represents an unusually early start in congressional elections. But Bachmann faces a potentially tough challenge next year in her rematch with DFL businessman Jim Graves, who lost by just 4,296 votes in November in an overwhelmingly Republican Sixth District.
Bachmann also has been battered in recent months by ethics and campaign finance allegations stemming from her presidential campaign. Her ads are running as she is in settlement talks in connection with a politically damaging lawsuit filed by a former staffer who accuses her of covering up the alleged theft of a proprietary database taken by the chairman of her Iowa caucus campaign.
Bachmann declined to answer questions about the case Thursday as aides spirited her into a waiting car.
Bachmann’s legal problems, following her narrow election victory, have put her on the margins of recent congressional debates on budgets and taxes. But on Thursday, she found herself at the same lectern with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, two rising stars in national GOP politics.
Speaking at the rally, Bachmann raised the specter of the misuse of IRS power to deny benefits to conservatives under the health care law. She also has begun fundraising off the scandal, sending an e-mail solicitation Thursday calling for greater openness by the White House: “Enough of the blatant cover ups, the flagrant smokescreens, the factual omissions,” she said. “We need answers and we need them NOW.”