Conservative Senator John Boozman Says No Thanks to Tea Party Caucus

The Arkansas Republican takes a ride on ABC's 'Subway Series.'

ByABC News
February 11, 2011, 9:38 AM

Feb. 11, 2011 -- 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."

So far, the Senate Tea Party caucus has just three members: Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jim DeMint (R-SC).

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."