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BACHMANN, Michele

BACHMANN, Michele
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
1956–

Biography

In 2006, Michele Bachmann emerged from state politics to become the first Republican woman from Minnesota elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. By the time she won a third term in the House, she had become a national figure in the Republican Party and a founding member of the congressional Tea Party Caucus. Despite a limited legislative record, Bachmann’s ambitious conservative agenda made her one of the most prominent opponents of the Barack Obama administration during her time in Congress and propelled her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Michele Amble was born in Waterloo, Black Hawk County, Iowa, on April 6, 1956, to David Amble, an engineer, and Arlene “Jean” Johnson, a bank teller.1 Her family moved to Anoka, Minnesota, in 1968. She graduated from Anoka High School in 1974. In 1978, she received a B.A. in political science and English from Winona State University and married Marcus Bachmann, a clinical therapist. She went on to study law at the Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University, receiving a J.D. in 1986. Two years later, she completed a master’s of law in taxation at the College of William and Mary.2 After working for four years as a lawyer for the I.R.S. Office of Chief Counsel, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bachmann left the position after the birth of her second child in 1992.3

Bachmann and her husband had five children and worked with a private foster care agency to house 23 children in their home in Stillwater, Minnesota, over the course of six years in the 1990s.4 Bachmann’s five children were home schooled and attended private Christian schools. Her political career stemmed from her interest in education reform. When she enrolled one of her children at a charter school, she took a position on the school’s board and collaborated with other like-minded parents and school administrators to emphasize the role of Christianity in American life throughout the curriculum. In December 1993, however, Bachmann resigned from the board after the state threatened to revoke the school’s charter.5

After an unsuccessful run for a position on the Stillwater Area School Board in 1999, Bachmann defeated a longtime moderate incumbent for a state senate seat in 2000.6 In the state senate, Bachmann became a vocal critic of a Minnesota law that set state education standards and a federal education law encouraging vocational training programs at public high schools.7 She also urged the legislature to approve a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, limit access to abortions, and cut taxes—all of which placed her firmly at the forefront of a burgeoning new conservative wing of the Republican Party.8

When Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy decided to leave the House to run for Minnesota’s vacant Senate seat in 2006, Bachmann entered the race to represent her suburban Minneapolis congressional district. Her campaign was well-received in the Republican-leaning district anchored by the city of St. Cloud, which overlapped with her state senate district.9 Bachmann touted her Christian beliefs and her support for much of the economic and foreign policy agenda of President George W. Bush. She won 52 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Patty Wetterling by a comfortable 10 point margin, becoming the first Republican woman from Minnesota elected to the House.10 She followed this performance with a strong re-election campaign in 2008 and an overwhelming victory in 2010.

House Republicans assigned Bachmann to the Financial Services Committee for her entire career in Congress, and she used this position to criticize the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the George W. Bush-era rescue package Congress approved in the fall of 2008 to prevent Wall Street from collapsing under the weight of the subprime mortgage crisis. She also advocated for the privatization of Social Security and tax reform, focusing on ending the estate tax and making President Bush’s tax cuts permanent.11 Bachmann was also named to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the 112th and 113th Congresses (2011-2015).

During her four terms in Congress, Bachmann was increasingly critical of President Obama. Framing her critique in the language of small government conservatism, Bachmann called for the strict application of constitutional principles and restrictions on the size and power of the federal government.

Despite her public profile, an act renaming a Minnesota post office was the only one of Bachmann’s sponsored bills passed into law during her time in Congress.12 Her activity mainly consisted of proposals designed to counteract the efforts of the Obama administration, including bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act and calls for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.13 This strategy contributed to Bachmann’s rapid ascent into the national spotlight, which coincided with the emergence of the Tea Party movement. She praised the populist, anti-government movement for its principles of “fiscal responsibility and limited government,” and founded the Tea Party Caucus in Congress in 2010.14

In 2011, Bachmann declared her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.15 Briefly among the frontrunners, Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll in August 2011. Ultimately, she finished sixth in the Iowa caucus and withdrew from the race in January 2012.16 In 2012, Bachmann narrowly defeated Democrat Jim Graves by less than 5,000 votes. She chose not to run for reelection to the 114th Congress in 2014.17

Footnotes

1Jason Clayworth, “Bachmann Follows Instincts, Not Political Climate, For Stands,” Des Moines Register, 9 August 2011; John Skipper, “Bachmann Always Determined, Says Mason City Cousin,” Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette, 28 June 2011.

2Politics in America, 2008 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 2007): 552.

3Ryan Lizza, “Leap of Faith: The Making of a Republican Front-Runner,” The New Yorker, 15 August 2011.

4Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Roots of Bachmann’s Ambition Began at Home,” New York Times, 21 June 2011.

5Ibid.

6Lizza, “Leap of Faith.”

7Ibid.

8Almanac of American Politics, 2008 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal Inc., 2007): 903.

9Politics in America, 2008, 552; Charles Baxter, “A Campaign in Crisis Mode,” New York Times, 24 September 2006; Lawrence Schumacher, “6th Congressional District Race: Bachmann Banks on Moral Issues,” St. Cloud Times, 19 October 2006.

10Politics in America, 2008, 552.

11Stephen Moore, “’On the Beach, I Bring von Mises’: The Tea Party Favorite on Her Start in Politics, Where She Learned Her Economics, and Why She Disagrees with Reagan on the War Powers Resolution,” Wall Street Journal, 11 June 2011.

12Allison Sherry, “Bachmann’s Bow Segues to Next Act,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 20 December 2014.

13Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Jennifer Brooks, “Bachmann Calls It Quits, Says Her Future is ‘Limitless,’” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 30 May 2013; Lizza, “Leap of Faith.”

14David Herszenhorn, “Congress Now Has a ‘Tea Party Caucus,’” New York Times, 20 July 2010.

15“Bachmann Jumps into Crowded GOP Field,” Boston Globe, 28 June 2011.

16Politics in America, 2014 (Washington, D.C.: CQ-Roll Call, Inc., 2013): 538.

17Ben Terris, “Michele Bachmann, Queen of the Tea Party, Searches for What’s Next,” Washington Post, 27 October 2014.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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Bibliography / Further Reading

Bachmann, Michele. Core of Conviction: My Story. New York: Sentinel, 2011.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Financial Services
  • House Committee - Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
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