Sen. Marco Rubio says tea party caucus not needed

WASHINGTON -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- who hasn't joined a new Senate Tea Party caucus -- told reporters Wednesday morning that he's not even sure there's a need for one.

The Florida Republican, who became a darling of the conservative movement, said he still hasn't decided about joining any caucuses, but plans to meet with Tea Party caucus members to ``get their sense of what they want the caucus to be about.''

He said he's not certain a Senate Tea Party caucus is a good idea.

``Really what I think the strength of the Tea Party is that comes from the grass roots,'' Rubio told a group of Florida reporters Wednesday in an interview in his temporary Senate office. ``That it is not a political organization, it's not something run by politicians or people seeking higher office, but rather it is a movement of every day citizens from all walks of life.. That's the strength of the Tea Party: that it's not a political organization run by people out of Washington. My concern is a Tea Party caucus could intrude on that.''

He said he does plan to join the Republican Steering Committee, a conservative group that has been long established and meets to talk policy. He noted the group has staffers and ``has the infrastructure in place to provide resources that those of us who believe in center right limited government, free enterprise can rely on.

``The fundamental question I have -- and there might be a good reason for it -- is what's the difference between the Tea Party caucus and what already exists in the steering committee?'' said Rubio, who first questioned the need for a separate Tea Party caucus during a CNN interview last July.

Some activists have taken note of Rubio's reluctance to join the caucus and said they'll be watching his votes. Caucus founder Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul declined to stop to talk about Rubio's non-embrace, telling reporters to call his office.

Rubio said he'll take his first vote today on a resolution honoring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He'll also co-sponsor his first bill by joining 33 other Senate Republicans who are endorsing Tea Party caucus member South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's effort to repeal the sweeping health care bill.

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