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 her third term, she had become a national figure in the Republican Party and a founding member of the congressional Tea Party Caucus. Bachmann’s ambitious conservative agenda made her one of the most prominent opponents of the Barack Obama administration during her time in Congress and encouraged her bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Michele Bachmann was born Michele Amble in Waterloo, Black Hawk County, Iowa, on April 6, 1956, to David Amble, an engineer, and Arlene (Jean) Johnson, a bank teller.1 The family moved to Anoka, Minnesota, in 1968, and she graduated from Anoka High School in 1974. She received a BA in political science and English from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, in 1978 and married Marcus Bachmann, a clinical therapist. She went on to study law at the Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, receiving a JD in 1986. Two years later, she completed a master’s of law in taxation at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.2 She worked for four years as a lawyer for the Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Chief Counsel, in St. Paul, Minnesota, but 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 later attended private schools, and 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, Bachmann resigned from the board after the state threatened to revoke the school’s charter.5

After an unsuccessful run for 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 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, which leaned Republican. The district was anchored by the city of St. Cloud, and 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 easily won reelection in 2008 and 2010.11

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 the collapse of investment banking corporations. She advocated for the privatization of Social Security and tax reform, focusing on ending the estate tax and making President Bush’s tax cuts permanent. Bachmann was named to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the 112th and 113th Congresses (2011–2015).12

In 2012 Bachmann’s bill to waive certain environmental regulations in order to build a large new bridge over the St. Croix River connecting Minnesota to Wisconsin became law as part of a Senate package. Because the St. Croix had been designated a Wild and Scenic River in the 1970s, the federal government had to meet specific environmental requirements before approving any new construction projects. Bachmann’s bill allowed state and federal authorities to move forward building the bridge so long as they followed a “mitigation package” limiting damage to the river first agreed to in 2006.13

During her four terms in Congress, Bachmann, who supported small government policies, was increasingly critical of President Obama. She called for the strict application of constitutional principles and restrictions on the size and power of the federal government.

Bachmann’s legislative activity mainly consisted of proposals designed to counteract the efforts of the Obama administration. In 2013 her bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act—a major health care reform package enacted in 2010—passed the House.14 She also called for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.15 This strategy contributed to Bachmann’s rapid ascent into the national spotlight, which coincided with the emergence of the Tea Party. 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 2010.16

In 2011 Bachmann declared her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.17 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 2012.18 In 2012 Bachmann narrowly defeated Democrat Jim Graves by less than 5,000 votes. In 2014 she chose not to run for re-election and retired at the end of the 113th Congress (2013–2015).19

Footnotes

1Jason Clayworth, “Bachmann Follows Instincts, Not Political Climate, For Stands,” 9 December 2011, Des Moines Register: A1; John Skipper, “Bachmann Always Determined, Says Mason City Cousin,”28 June 2011, Globe Gazette (Mason City, IA): n.p.

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

3Ryan Lizza, “Leap of Faith: The Making of a Republican Front-Runner,” 15 August 2011, New Yorker, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/08/15/leap-of-faith-ryan-lizza.

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

5Stolberg, “Roots of Bachmann’s Ambition Began at Home.”

6Lizza, “Leap of Faith.”

7Lizza, “Leap of Faith.”

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,” 24 September 2006, New York Times: C13; Lawrence Schumacher, “6th Congressional District Race: Bachmann Banks on Moral Issues,” 19 October 2006, St. Cloud Times (MN): 1A.

10Politics in America, 2008, 552.

11Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

12Stephen 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,” 11 June 2011, Wall Street Journal: n.p.

13To facilitate a proposed project in the Lower St. Croix Wild and Scenic River, and for other purposes, H.R. 850, 112th Cong. (2011); House Committee on Natural Resources, To Facilitate a Proposed Project in the Lower St. Croix Wild and Scenic River, and for Other Purposes, 112th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 309 (2011); St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act, PL 112-100, 126 Stat. 268 (2012).

14To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health-care related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, H.R. 45, 113th Cong. (2013).

15Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Jennifer Brooks, “Bachmann Calls It Quits, Says Her Future is ‘Limitless,’” 30 May 2013, Minneapolis Star Tribune: A1; Lizza, “Leap of Faith.”

16David Herszenhorn, “Congress Now Has a ‘Tea Party Caucus,’” 20 July 2010, New York Times, https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/20/congressnow-has-a-tea-party-caucus/.

17Associated Press, “Bachmann Jumps into Crowded GOP Field,” 28 June 2011, Boston Globe: A6.

18Politics in America, 2014 (Washington, DC: CQ-Roll Call, Inc., 2013): 538.

19“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present”; Ben Terris, “Michele Bachmann, Queen of the Tea Party, Searches for What’s Next,” 27 October 2014, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/michele-bachmann-queen-of-the-tea-party-searches-for-whats-next/2014/10/27/6013d980-5ac4-11e4-8264-deed989ae9a2_story.html.

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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