In a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, Michele Bachmann underscored what she hopes will be her legacy: the upstart tea-party movement.
The Minnesota Republican, who last year announced she would retire from Congress at the end of this year, founded the House Tea Party Caucus in 2010, a year when the grassroots movement propelled a new batch of conservative lawmakers to Congress. Stressing her pivotal role in what she considers a still-vibrant, influential political movement, Bachmann called the tea party a "reawakening" of long-held American values such as limited government and free enterprise.
"These are not new ideas," Bachmann told the small audience. The tea party, she said, is "about returning us and our nation to our founding principles, front and center, in public discourse."
In keeping with a nostalgic theme, she recalled her time as a freshman lawmaker pushing back against the Bush administration's Wall Street bailout. And she also told the story of a rally at the Capitol against the Affordable Care Act—"that I called," she reminded the audience—where more than 20,000 people told legislators, "Not with my health care, you don't."
"The grassroots energy sent a wave of freedom-loving reinforcements to Washington, D.C., in 2010, including the likes of Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul," she said. "It took the gavel away from Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives, and with the largest number of seat pickups since 1948. I wonder what this election this year will yield."