In an incredible moment of political clarity late last year, GOP House Speaker John Boehner took his feud with outside Tea Party groups to a new level, attacking them for the antics that have undermined his leadership for over three years.
The pushback began back in December when during a press briefing, Boehner made it clear that he wasn’t interested in pulling any punches, telling reporters that in his eyes, the Tea Party has “lost all credibility.”
His comments seemed to signify that the GOP civil war wasn’t going to be fought in the shadows anymore. After years of enduring hits from fringe conservative groups, the last straw for Boehner apparently came when a collection of Washington-based Tea Party groups slammed the bi-partisan budget deal GOP Rep. Paul Ryan negotiated back in December – even before he unveiled it.
“I think [the Tea Party] are misleading their followers,” he said. “They’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be, and frankly, I think they’ve lost all credibility.”
It’s amazing how times have changed. Just three years ago, Boehner told the White House that they’d have to make some giant concessions in order to get a debt ceiling increase.
“Without significant spending cuts and changes in the way we spend the American people’s money, there will be no increase in the debt limit,” he said. “The cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in the debt limit that the president is given.”
The following showdown let to a downgrade in the nation’s credit rating, followed by the government shutdown that further damaged the GOP brand.
This time around, the Speaker is looking to spare the nation another crisis with a no strings debt limit extension, and his conservative critics are furious. Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin started a nationwide petition this week seeking Boehner’s ouster as speaker.
“Speaker Boehner is unable to lead the House of Representatives,” Martin said. “He’s certainly unable to lead his own caucus.”
In other signals of a shift, Boehner is increasingly ignoring demands from conservative groups to oppose the clean debt limit bill. Heritage Action for America’s spokesman Dan Holler was visibly angry at the Speaker’s new approach.
“The speaker and Majority Leader Cantor and others have always had the option of working with Democrats to pass these bills. And if that’s the sort of Republican-controlled House they want — where they have Democrats that are the sort of de facto majority in terms of setting policy, that’s a decision they can make,” he said. “It’s not the right one. But it’s one that they control the floor and they have to make.”
An article in the Daily Kos this weekend summed up the feud rather well:
[box type=”shadow”]One of the first signs that a movement is in trouble is when everything starts to turn into a purity contest. This is why few third parties have been able to get much traction in this country. To sustain itself, a movement must allow its members freedom to grow and to disagree. Frequently, movements will start and explode in numbers. They will look like they are about to take over the country. But then they fall apart because too many members think too many other members are not ideologically pure enough for them.[/box]