Sen. Orrin Hatch isn't going to miss this party. Hatch, who is two years from facing reelection, says he plans to attend a Tea Party Express townhall meeting
in Washington Tuesday night, even though he's not listed as a participant in an official announcement of the event.
Tea Party Express head Amy Kremer told CNN
that Hatch (R-Utah) had apparently "invited himself." That's all right, she said, and "obviously Senator Hatch wants to get reelected." But, she warned, "he needs to be ready to answer the tough questions."
Hatch's one-time colleague, former Sen. Robert Bennett, was ousted
by tea party-organized activists at a Utah state GOP convention last year. Bennett's sin? Voting for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) -- the so-called bailout bill that was an initiative of then-President George W. Bush. Hatch, too, voted for TARP. And although his conservative credentials are solid, he has a reputation for working well with Democrats, including the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The Tea Party Express, one of the more active groups in the grassroots anti-Obama, anti-government-spending movement, has given no sign at this point that its members will oppose Hatch. But he isn't taking any chances. "I'll be joining @OurCountry PAC for the Tea Party Express town hall meeting tomorrow night," Hatch said in a Twitter post.
But another Republican facing reelection next year, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, told
WANE NewsChannel 15
that the tea party and others criticizing him for supporting the START arms treaty need to "get real." Lugar, in an interview with the Fort Wayne station, said he voted for the agreement
in December because he wanted to take Russian nuclear warheads out of circulation. Lugar could face a primary challenge
from the political right in 2012
At the event at Washington's National Press Club Tuesday night, other conservatives already in the embrace of the tea party, such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
, are on the agenda and are expected to field questions from the floor.
Folo Tom Diemer on Twitter http://twitter.com/tomdiemer