But the narrative of tea party freshmen frustrating the will of the Republican leadership is a piece of fiction, at least according to a POLITICO study of 100 major House votes and interviews with lawmakers, aides and outside interest group leaders. There’s disagreement in Washington’s political class - not to mention around the country - about how much influence the tea party groups exercise in the halls of Congress.Only 15 of the 80 freshman House Republicans have signed up for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus, accounting for a quarter of the 60 official tea party Republicans in the House. That also means freshmen, who account for one-third of the House Republican Conference, are under-represented in the Tea Party Caucus.It’s clear that tea party groups and other conservative activists helped elect many of the freshmen, and it’s equally clear that the massive freshman class - alongside emboldened veteran conservatives - has influenced the direction of the debate in Washington this year. But tea party leaders know that they’re not yet getting what they want in terms of substance."Regardless of whether it’s Republicans or Democrats, the conversation in Washington, D.C., has changed from one of spending, spending, spending to one of cuts," said Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots. "The next step is actually getting people on both sides of the aisle to accept what they’re saying is true and make the changes."In particular, tea party groups were frustrated that House Republican leaders didn’t vote on bills that would have prioritized U.S. debt and, in their view, put the lie to the notion that the U.S. risked default if the debt limit was exceeded. Even tea party icon Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) has come under fire for his vote to raise the debt ceiling.Inside Congress, the Tea Party Caucus is a group that seldom meets and whose membership includes GOP leadership loyalists. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), for example, is a tea party freshman who voted with the GOP leadership 96 percent of the time on the 100 votes POLITICO studied. Where did he stray? He opposed Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s efforts to cut funding for the Energy Department, voted no on one short-term spending bill and tried to preserve Amtrak funding.While the 15 tea party House freshmen voted against the party’s position more often than all other lawmakers - about 13.5 percent to about 12.25 percent - the full set of Tea Party Caucus members voted with the party position more often than folks who don’t identify with the group, according to the POLITICO vote study.