Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Rep. Michele Bachmann's message for conservatives traveling to Washington to attend her Capitol Hill House Call event Thursday is simple: "Go into the Capitol and find members of Congress," she told activists Wednesday night. "Don't bring your pitchforks, bring your video cameras. And get them on record saying how they're going to vote and why. And tell them, 'Take your hands off my health care!' "
Bachmann (R-Minn.) gave the marching orders on a conference call of top activists, many of whom planned to board buses in New Jersey and North Carolina Thursday morning to attend the event that the congresswoman thought up last week. "Nothing is more influential than an eyeball-to-eyeball meeting between a freedom-loving constituent and a member of Congress," she explained. "Nothing scares a member of Congress more than freedom-loving Americans."
Bachmann said the idea came to her as she lamented the speed with which the Democrats' health care reform bills were moving through Congress. "I was near despair," she said. "I was thinking, 'It looks like this bill is going to go through.' But then I thought, 'This is it. This is the Super Bowl of Freedom.' "
After hearing about "Congressional House Calls" planned by Americans for Prosperity, whose members were already planning to go to the district offices of members of Congress to speak out against the Democrats' health care reform bills, Bachmann said, "I just did a take-off on it." Bachmann told her Republicans colleagues about her idea for a D.C. event at a caucus meeting last Thursday and said, "Let's do this thing."
From there, said Brendan Buck, "members were looking for a way to unite conservatives. Representative Bachmann had an idea and got a lot of buy-in from members." Buck is a spokesman for Rep. Tom Price (D-Ga.), the chair of the Republican Study Committee who is also an orthopedist.
What began as an impromptu meet-up now features a noon rally on the Capitol steps with the full Republican leadership of the House of Representatives, talk radio personalities and the actor Jon Voight.
In Bachmann's plan, activists will then fan out across the Capitol office complex to find their representatives and nail them down on their health care position. Buck said his boss won't be directing people to go to congressmen's offices, "but people are coming to D.C. to make their voices heard, and I imagine they will make sure that happens."
If the prediction of thousands of attendees proves accurate, the event with mark the first high-profile show of force from the so-called tea party activists in the health care debate since their raucous attendance at town-hall meetings in August. A large rally in Washington for the "9/12 Project" attracted scores of conservatives, but almost no members of Congress, since the event fell on a weekend when most lawmakers had left Washington to travel to their home districts.
Bachmann makes clear that the ultimate goal of the rally and subsequent member-constituent meetings is to stop health care reform. "I think that Pelosi will not be able to get the votes and we'll kill the bill," she predicted. "And if we kill the bill this week in the House, if she can't get the votes, I think it could be dead for 10 years."