Arkansas' freshman Republican, John Boozman, comes to the Senate with solid conservative credentials (including a 96 percent rating last year from the American Conservative Union), but he tells ABC News he has no intention of joining the Senate Tea Party caucus. "Well you know I'm very supportive of what the Tea Party is trying to do. They're very concerned with spending, the deficit, the bailouts, you know all of those kinds of things," Boozman said in an interview for the ABC News Subway Series. "But I really think that the strength of the Tea Party is being a grassroots movement."
You can watch my interview with Senator Boozman HERE.
Forming a Tea Party caucus of Republican Senators, Boozman said, could make the movement seem like a wing of the Republican Party, which he says it should not be.
"If you have such a situation where it becomes an arm of the Republican Party, or it appears to be that way -- and don't think that the people who are doing this are trying to do that, but to the public it will appear that way -- then you lose the Reagan Democrats, then you lose the independents," Boozman said. "And I really, I think it's really important that they continue to have that support."
Boozman says he wants to see deep cuts in federal spending, but made it clear there is at least one key area of spending where he doesn't want to see big cuts: agriculture subsidies.
"It's easy to say you want a balanced budget amendment. It's easy to say in the abstract. But I'm asking you about a specific bit of spending that really affects your state, agriculture subsidies. Are you willing to see those significantly cut?" Karl asked.
"Well you know, I think again you establish the parameters," Boozman said. "Once you do that then you know we get in and look and see, you know, what we can done."
"But it doesn't sound like ag subsidies will be at the top of your list for things to cut," Karl said.
"We're going to have to look at everything but ag subsidies are like everything else. That affects jobs," the senator said. "Now listen, the one thing about agriculture is we've lost our manufacturing, we've lost a great deal of jobs overseas, lots of our industry. The last thing in the world we need to do is lose the ability to produce our food."
Boozman Favors Huckabee in '12
Boozman served on the House International Relations Committee and had high marks for President Obama's handling of the situation in Egypt.
"I think the president's done a good job," he said. "I think it's very important that we do support the president as we go forward. If not, then you send mixed-messages which is not a good situation. There will be a time when everyone will argue about this one way or the other. For right now I think the president is doing a good job trying to send a good message."
When asked about the 2012 GOP presidential field, Boozman was reluctant to name a favorite.
"Right now there is nobody that is running away with it. I like some of the young guys like Senator Thune. He's a guy that looks good. He's very articulate, he's very smart, and he truly is a public servant. You've got the governor of New Jersey, you've got people like Romney, Haley Barbour, some of these other guys. But again, none of these guys have really fired off. It truly is up for grabs," he said.
It was only after Boozman was pressed about a possible Sarah Palin run that he conceded he'd likely support the hometown son, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
"I'll be supporting him because he's from Arkansas and he's a good friend," the senator said. "And I think he's a very capable guy."