Fed-up Boehner blasts outside groups
House Speaker John Boehner speaks at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Since John Boehner became speaker of the House in 2011, the Ohio Republican has attempted, with varying success, to appease tea party members within the GOP conference and the outside groups that helped sweep them into office. On Thursday, Boehner signalled an end to the détente, charging his conservative critics with "misleading" their supporters and losing "all credibility" in opposing the bipartisan budget deal announced earlier this week.
"Frankly, 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 credibility," Boehner told reporters Thursday.
But the criticism did not end there, as Boehner called out conservatives for pushing the party into the failed effort to defund the health care law that resulted in a politically damaging shutdown of the federal government. "Most of you know, my members know, that wasn't exactly the strategy that I had in mind. But if you recall, the day before the government reopened, one of the people that -- one of these groups stood up and said, well, we never really thought it would work," Boehner said, before punctuating the statement with the line, "Are you kidding me?"
Asked if he wanted conservative groups to "stand down," Boehner responded: "I don't care what they do."
The comments sparked a fierce backlash on the right.
The co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin, charged Boehner's leadership was the problem, not the influence from outside groups. "Frankly, Mr. Speaker, continuously making promises and then breaking them is how you lose credibility with the American people. Pitting your colleagues against their constituents is how you lose credibility with your conference. Not upholding conservative principles is how you lose credibility with the voters who will find someone else if you are not willing to do your job."
The president of FreedomWorks, Matt Kibbe, said Boehner's issue was not with conservative groups like his, but with the "millions of individual Americans who vote Republican because they were told the GOP was the party of small government and fiscal responsibility."
The lead negotiator of the compromise for Republicans, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, said the deal was the best that could be achieved under divided government.
"Elections have consequences, Mr. Speaker," Ryan said on the House floor Thursday. "And I fundamentally believe -- this is just my personal opinion -- I know it's a slightly partisan thing to say -- to really do what we think needs to be done, we're going to have to win some elections. And in the meantime, let's try and make this divided government work."
As the GOP civil war played out, the House approved the two-year budget outline Thursday night on a 332 to 94 vote, with 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats voting in favor of the deal. Of the 94 "no" votes, 62 came from the Republican side of the aisle, though there were no defections among senior GOP leaders. There were 32 Democratic "no" votes.
The agreement would roll back $63 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts and replace them with targeted reductions and increased revenues through higher fees and pension contributions from newly-hired federal workers. It also removes the prospect of another government shutdown soon after lawmakers return to Washington in the new year.
Democrats blasted Republicans for not including in the proposal an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, although that was not enough of a deterrent to stop most members of the party from supporting the package.
"Let's not turn our backs on the most vulnerable in this country," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "It has become unfashionable in this Congress to worry about the poor. It has become unfashionable to stand up for these programs just to help people get by. This is the holiday season. Have a heart."
The package now heads to the Senate, where Republicans are slow-walking as many votes as they can in protest of the Democrats' forced rule changes last month.
The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe explains the confirmation battles and why senators are likely to be in session all weekend.
Congressional aides expect the budget measure to pass, despite growing opposition from Senate Republicans. Meredith Shiner and Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call describe it as the "ideal political scenario."
Most GOP senators facing primary challengers in 2014 have either declared their opposition to the framework or are expected to do so in the coming days, which perhaps creates for them the ideal political scenario: Congress puts itself on track to avoid a shutdown by setting appropriations levels for the next two years that have bipartisan support while these Republicans get to tout their conservative bonafides in breaking with the party.
The reporter duo adds, "It's hard to see the deal achieving the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture without Republican appropriators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Neither of the two moderates would commit when asked about the Ryan-Murray legislation as the House voted Thursday."
On the NewsHour Thursday, anchor Judy Woodruff interviewed Sen. Patty Murray, the budget chairwoman and co-architect of the deal with Ryan. Murray fiercely defended the compromise as what happens when two opposing political views come together for the greater good.
Watch Kwame Holman's report here or below: