More fallout from Speaker Boehner’s rant against the influence of outside conservative groups, as the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest independent tea party groups, blasted the speaker for his ill-considered remarks, saying he had “declared war” on the tea party.
Tea Party Patriots said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has “declared war on the Tea Party” with his “smug and pretentious rant” against certain right-wing organizations.
The group made the charge in a fundraising email to supporters, seeking to win donations over the public feuding.
In the past two days, Boehner has repeatedly attacked the conservative groups that championed the October effort to defund ObamaCare and are now opposed to the recent budget deal negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
He has criticized the groups for being more interested in raising money than actually solving problems.
The letter quotes Boehner’s statement that “outside groups” were “using our members and … the American people for their own goals.”
“The last time we checked, we are the American people,” the letter said.
The letter goes on to refer to Boehner as a “ruling class politician” who only pretends to be conservative while remaining a “tax-and-spend liberal” at heart.
It castigated him for passing a “back-room budget deal which increases discretionary spending, does nothing to reform entitlements, and fully funds Obamacare.” The deal, it said, “is an out and out betrayal of the American people.”
Tea Party Patriots, founded in 2009, describes itself as “dedicated to holding tax-and-spend politicians accountable for creating America’s fiscal crisis.”
The group was an early backer of the push to defund ObamaCare that led to the government shutdown in early October.
Boehner is hardly alone in declaring war. It strains credulity to believe the Tea Party hasn’t been at war with the establishment for years, supplying at least some of the impetus for conflict by primarying anyone who didn’t agree with them 100%.
The difference this time, as Molly Ball at the Atlantic points out, is that Boehner has lost his patience and will now seek to marginalize the tea party in the Republican Party:
“Frankly, I think that they’ve lost all credibility,” Boehner said. “They pushed us into the fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government.” And then, he noted, some of them even admitted they never thought that ill-fated tactic would actually work. “Are you kidding me?”
Not much gets Boehner worked up. He is laid back to a fault. But the revelation that he and his fellow lawmakers were essentially pawns in a game played by agitators accountable to no one was too much for him to stomach. This week, he decided to prove that he is in charge.
Boehner’s willingness to publicly express the frustration many Republicans have privately felt with the groups’ tactics was a turning point. House leaders stopped trying to get along with the enforcers of an impossible conservative standard and started fighting back.
There was another, less public development this week that represented a similar turn. The Republican Study Committee, a group of House Republicans who meet weekly to talk about policy and tactics, had long served as a venue for conservative members and outside groups, chiefly the Heritage Foundation, to plot strategy together. But on Wednesday, the committee’s chairman, Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, fired longtime Executive Director Paul Teller, accusing him of betraying lawmakers’ trust by leaking to outside groups.
That was precisely the point. Republican lawmakers were sick of being at the mercy of outside agitators whose demands they viewed as increasingly impossible. In 2011, a Teller deputy urged conservative groups to oppose the debt-ceiling deal that lawmakers were trying to reach; he was almost fired then. This September, lawmakers believe Teller helped gin up conservative resistance to a government-funding deal that would have averted the shutdown. And during the negotiations for the present deal, even as lawmakers tried to reach accord inside the Capitol, Teller, they charge, was working to undermine the agreement by sharing confidential details with groups like Heritage—which came out against the plan before Ryan and Murray even announced it. The firing sent shockwaves through the conservative-activist community, where Teller is well-known and well-liked. Dozens of conservative leaders signed on to a letter of protest that called him “one of the true heroes of the conservative movement.” He immediately became a sort of martyr, his dismissal a symbol of House leaders’ attack on their erstwhile conservative allies.
In essence, Boehner has opened the door and invited the Tea Party to leave or play ball. It is a completely unnecessary and dangerous gambit that could blow up in the speaker’s face if the right wing takes him up on his offer and forms some kind of third party. This isn’t likely at the moment, but who can say what the future will bring? Immigration is coming to the floor of the House early next year and there are certainly going to be parts of any bill coming out of a House-Senate conference committee that the tea party will be up in arms over. Then there’s the debt ceiling fight that promises more friction between the tea party and the establishment.
It’s not impossible to imagine that if Boehner continues to marginalize and deliberately snub the tea party and outside conservative groups, it could force them to reach the conclusion they aren’t wanted and either sit out the 2014 mid terms or actively promote their own candidates as a third party alternative.
Either scenario would be disastrous for GOP chances to take the Senate in 2014.