There is no tea party caucus independent of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, Speaker of the House John Boehner said Thursday in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
“We’ve got members from all different types — all walks of life, if you will,” Boehner said.
“But do they come back changed by this election?” Sawyer asked.
“Well, listen, I think this has been the most misreported story of my two years’ tenure,” Boehner replied. “We don’t have a tea party caucus to speak of in the House. All of us who were elected in 2010 were supported by the tea party.”
“These are ordinary Americans who’ve taken a more active role in our government. They want solutions. But we’ve all come a long way over the past two years. We all understand each other a lot better,” Boehner added.
“So you don’t foresee any problem as you head into this negotiation?” Sawyer asked, according to a transcript provided by Boehner’s office.
“There’re gonna be problems,” Boehner replied, according to the transcript. “There will be problems — dealin’ with what the president’ll want. Problems dealin’ with what my members want. Take it one day at a time, and do your best.”
Only the first two questions and answers from the interview were posted online by ABC at publication time.
The Tea Party Caucus, which was started by Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann in 2010, currently has 55 members. Boehner apparently was not referring to that group in the interview.
Democrats immediately jumped on Boehner’s comment, saying that the interview was an attempt by the speaker “to disavow the tea party.” (RELATED: After Election Day, tea party group attacks Mitt Romney as ‘weak’)
“No matter how hard Speaker Boehner tries to cover it up, voters know that the House Republican Caucus and the tea party are the exact same thing, and that’s why they fired tea party incumbents in this week’s election,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director Jesse Ferguson said in a statement.
“The American people sent 16 tea party Republican incumbents packing on election night, and now Speaker Boehner is trying to hide his tea party agenda before it starts costing Republicans even more seats,” Ferguson added. “Speaker Boehner pledged to actually gain seats in the 2012 elections, so maybe falling so short of his goal has just made it harder to remember reality.”
Boehner’s communications director, Kevin Smith, denied Ferguson’s claims.
“[Boehner] was simply referring to the inaccurate perception in the press that members who were supported by the tea party in 2010 have somehow been a problem,” Smith said.