WASHINGTON Dec 12 The bitter ideological feud
tearing at the Republican Party boiled over on Thursday as the
U.S. Congress considered a bipartisan budget deal with angry
recriminations between the Republicans' top elected leader and
the powerful conservative organizations that have been
tormenting him for years.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner said the outside
groups had stepped over a line and "lost credibility" in
fighting the deal.
The president of FreedomWorks, one of the Tea Party-oriented
organizations attacked by Boehner, responded that conservatives
have had it with "old bulls" who "miss the old ways of doing
things" in Congress.
The immediate spark for the exchange was an effort by the
well-funded groups - the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and
FreedomWorks - to undermine a bipartisan budget deal backed by
the leadership of the Repubican-controlled House of
Representatives, particularly Boehner.
The groups believe the agreement does not go far enough to
curb federal spending. Historically, as well, they do not like
deals with Democrats.
But the fury that came from the usually buttoned-up Boehner
The same organizations, wielding their considerable clout
with conservative rank-and-file House members, had pushed
Boehner against his better judgment into a September funding
showdown over demands from the small-government, low-tax Tea
Party movement for a delay or defunding of Obamacare, President
Barack Obama's healthcare law.
That led to a 16-day government shutdown and a plunge in
standing in polls for Republicans.
And some of the Tea Party members of his caucus in the House
had done their best to oust Boehner as speaker last year.
Boehner was having no more of it.
"Frankly," Boehner said of the outside groups at a news
conference, "I think they're misleading their followers. I think
they're pushing our members in places where they don't want to
be. And frankly, I just think that they've lost all
"You know, they pushed us into this fight to defund
Obamacare and to shut down the government. Most of you know, my
members know, that wasn't exactly the strategy that I had in
mind," Boehner told reporters.
"But, if you'll recall, the day before the government
reopened, one of the people at one of these groups stood up and
said, 'Well, we never really thought it would work.'"
Then, Boehner grabbed the podium and raised his voice for
emphasis: "Are you kidding me?" he said.
'THROWING IN THE TOWEL'
"I'm surprised" at Boehner's comments, said FreedomWorks'
President Matt Kibbe.
But "I'm surprised by this deal. I feel like the House
Republican leadership has given up," Kibbe said. "This (deal)
isn't just a step in the wrong direction. They gave away
everything ... they are throwing in the towel."
Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action, an affiliate of
the conservative Heritage Foundation, said he had no idea why
Boehner erupted in anger at the outside groups at this time.
Boehner, he said, "has poked the entire conservative
movement in the eye. I don't know what that portends for
legislation next year ... but if you are poking conservatives in
the eye, they are not going to be motivated to knock on doors
next fall," a reference to the 2014 congressional elections.
"If you have an alienated base, heading into an election,
you are going to be in a huge amount of trouble," Holler said.
Representative John Fleming, a Louisiana conservative who
plans to vote for the budget deal, said both sides may be
overreacting - Boehner and the outside groups.
"I think the outside groups should be a little more
analytical about these agreements and I think he (Boehner)
should maybe be a little more measured in his response," he said
outside the House.
Fleming said conservative groups thought any deal with
Democrats was a bad one.
But "when I went to look at this bill ... the more I read it
the better I liked it," Fleming said. "It does hold true the
basic principles of conservatism. It doesn't raise taxes. It
doesn't add to the deficit. It adds needed dollars for defense
... and it keeps us on the same lower spending curve that we
were already on. So I have to ask myself, What's wrong with
"There is a lot of talk about so-called civil war between
outside groups and the leadership," FreedomWorks President Kibbe
"I think there is a fight for the soul of the Republican
Party in the House Republican caucus."