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“Don’t Call Us; We’ll Call You”: When The Far-Right Isn’t Far-Right Enough

For about four decades, far-right members of Congress have enjoyed a special group separate from the Republican mainstream. It’s called the Republican Study Committee and it’s always been home to the House’s most rigid ideologues and reactionary voices. The faction even releases its own budget plan, and in recent years, has deemed Paul Ryan’s blueprint as far too moderate.

The group has even offered something of a gauge for the party’s overall direction – the larger the RSC’s membership, the more obvious it was that House Republicans had been radicalized.

Now, however, some far-right Republicans have decided some of their brethren just aren’t far-right enough. Politico reported yesterday afternoon:

More than a dozen of the House’s most conservative lawmakers will splinter from the decades-old Republican Study Committee to form a new organization designed to push the GOP caucus to the right.

The currently unnamed group will be led by Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Raúl Labrador of Idaho, sources involved with the planning said, and will probably include 30 or more Republicans – many of them among the most vocal critics of GOP leadership.

Jordan, it’s worth noting, is the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee. In other words, he’s leaving his own group to form an even-more-conservative entity.

At last count, the RSC listed 173 members – that’s more than two-thirds of the entire House Republican conference – while this new faction had 37 conservative lawmakers at their inaugural meeting earlier this week.

In an amazing twist, National Journal added that this group will be “invitation-only.” For those who may not be familiar with these Capitol Hill membership groups, ideological caucuses usually encourage lawmakers to join. Indeed, the whole point is to grow in the hopes of wielding more influence.

But for these far-right Republicans, the message seems to be, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”

Of course, all of this helps bolster the larger point: in the wake of a successful election cycle, Republican divisions are a genuine problem.

As the Republican Study Committee breakup shows – on the heels of the failed revolt against Speaker Boehner last week – some of the schisms are within House Republicans. At the same time, as Brian Beutler noted overnight, some of the divisions are also between the Senate GOP and the House GOP: they’re already on very different tracks on issues related to immigration, Homeland Security funding, and even a possible gas-tax hike.

Politico added this morning, “More often than not, House and Senate Republicans seem like they come from different parties, if not different planets.”

With a bruising 2015 just getting underway, Republicans are heading to a two-day retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to see if they can get in sync on their policy priorities – but more important, their expectations.

“It’s time to air the differences, see how big they are and hopefully find the common ground,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who served in the House for 14 years. “There’s no downside to it. It’s kind of the peak and then things disintegrate afterwards. This will be the moment of unity.”

Well, maybe.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s best not to overstate the nature of the intra-party schisms. For all intents and purposes, there are only a small handful of actual Republican moderates left on Capitol Hill – and by historical standards, they’re really not especially “moderate” – and the arguments within the party aren’t especially substantive. Rather, the fight is over tone, tactics, and strategy. The overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans want roughly the same thing; they just disagree over how to get there and whether certain destinations are realistic.

But as we’re seeing, those disagreements obviously matter, and as members sit down for a collective chat this week, the tensions are likely to fester.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, House Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Of The Orange Man”: Boehner “Leads” By Anticipating Exactly How Much Rope His Caucus Will Give Him

House Republicans are having them some leadership elections today, with Kevin McCarthy considered sure to overcome Raul Labrador for the defenestrated Eric Cantor’s Majority Leader position, while three members (Steve Scalise, Peter Roskam and Marlin Stutzman) compete for McCarthy’s Whip position. Scalise, currently chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, is considered the front-runner in that race.

But the consequence of Cantor’s demise that hasn’t made much news is that it will likely keep John Boehner in place for another two years. Carl Hulse of the New York Times has that story:

Significant uncertainty had remained about whether the man who has led the House since 2011 would run again for speaker, given his frustrations with his own members and some of their very public frustration with him. Allies said Mr. Boehner himself might not have known what he would ultimately do.

But Mr. Cantor’s abrupt departure from the leadership quickly put to rest any talk of Mr. Boehner’s retirement.

Members of Mr. Boehner’s circle said they immediately made clear to the speaker that he could no longer even consider stepping down, since doing so would leave the fractious House Republican conference without its top two leaders and with an extremely short list of colleagues able to fill that void.

The day after Mr. Cantor’s loss, Mr. Boehner told his colleagues that he intended to run again for speaker, and the declaration was met by many with relief. The shake-up has strengthened his hand in many respects, giving him stronger control of the agenda.

“Now he really is the indispensable man,” Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said.

Yeah, but one who often “leads” by anticipating exactly how much rope his caucus will give him. I’m sure the president will be thrilled to learn that absent some electoral tsunami in November, the Orange Man, smelling slightly of nicotine and brimstone, will be sitting behind him for yet another State of the Union address next January.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington MOnthly Political Animal, June 19, 2014

June 20, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Anti-Establishment Establishment”: In The GOP, The “Kids” Have Stopped Listening And The “Adults” Are No Longer In Control

To those of us who are perpetually skeptical of the alleged power of the incredibly “adult” and deeply “responsible” Republican Establishment to keep the “constitutional conservatives” in line, a Timothy Carney piece in the Washington Examiner earlier this week was especially interesting. It argued that the ability of said Establishment to kick ass and take names in Congress was being sharply eroded by the loss of a monopoly over money and jobs in Washington:

Cold cash, together with control of institutions, is what makes the Establishment the Establishment. But in the current Republican civil war, the insurgents have secured their own money pipelines, and they control their own institutions – which means the GOP leadership and its allies in the business lobby have a hard fight in front of them.

The firing and hiring of conservative staffer Paul Teller makes it clear that the anti-establishment has built its own establishment.

Teller was a House staffer for more than a decade, and was longtime executive director of the conservative Republican Study Committee. The RSC always exerted a rightward pull on party leadership, but it is nonetheless a subsidiary of the party.

After the 2012 election, the Republican Establishment captured the RSC, in effect, by getting Congressman Steve Scalise elected chairman. Scalise is a conservative, but he is also a close ally of the party leadership – much more so than his predecessors Jim Jordan and Tom Price. Scalise immediately swept out most of the RSC staff.

Last month, Teller was accused of working with outside groups such as Heritage Action to whip RSC members – and Scalise showed Teller the door.

In the old days, this might have been a disaster for Teller. He had lost his job and landed on the wrong side of the party leadership. Anyone who picked up Teller would be spitting in the eye of the Establishment. But this week, Sen. Ted Cruz announced he had hired Teller as deputy chief of staff.

Carney goes on to discuss the rapid rise of alternative sources for campaign money like the Club for Growth and Super-PACs, and the conquest of one important Beltway institution, the Heritage Foundation, by people openly hostile to The Establishment.

Now when you add in the already virtually complete control by hard-core conservatives of basic formulations of GOP ideology and messaging (the best example remains Jim DeMint’s Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge, an insanely radical piece of fiscal flimflammery that a long line of Republicans, from Mitt Romney on down, lined up to sign in 2011 and 2012) and the disproportionate strength of conservative activists in the presidential nominating process, it’s increasingly clear the “adults” are not necessarily in control. Indeed, like parents who try to behave like a kid to maintain some influence with their kids, Establishment folk are forever conceding territory to the “activists” they privately call crazy people. And the loss of its monopoly over jobs and money is like a parent’s loss of a teenager’s car keys and allowance. At some point, “the kids” just stop listening.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 16, 2014

January 20, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Modern Republican Party”: House Conservatives Fed Up With Conservative Caucus, Form Even More Conservative Caucus

The National Journal reports that a few liberty-loving Republican members of Congress, led by Rep. Justin Amash, have started a little caucus to represent the true, “hard-core” alternative to the Republican Study Committee. The idea that anyone needs a more “hardcore” Republican Study Committee seems to require some explaining. The RSC is (and has been for decades) effectively the House of Representatives’ “conservative caucus,” the group you join to announce that you are officially not a RINO. It is also a sort of miniature right-wing think tank with extensive ties to the business and other interests that fund the right and keep Republicans in line. For years, it has produced alternative budgets and decried compromise and criticized leadership for being insufficiently dedicated to small government.

It has, it turns out, been too successful. The RSC’s membership has increased rapidly as it became necessary for most House Republicans to signal their allegiance to ultra-conservatism; it now counts more than 170 members, including the most extreme members in the House, like Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann and Paul Broun, but also many more who rarely make headlines. There have been attempts to replace the RSC with something even more conservative in the past, but most of them — like Michele Bachmann’s pathetic “Tea Party Caucus” — were more about an individual lawmaker’s play for press than about creating an alternative organization.

The problem is, the RSC, by any measure, won the battle for the House Republican caucus long ago. More than three-quarters of the GOP conference are now members, including everyone in leadership besides Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Its primary “rival,” the “moderate” Republican Main Street Partnership, currently has fewer than 50 members in the House.

This criticism is nothing new. Many RSC members, including some former chairmen, have long expressed concerns about its membership—which now stands at 179 of 233 House Republicans. If three-quarters of the GOP Conference belongs to the RSC, they argue, the group cannot possibly practice the ideological purity on which its reputation was established.

“The RSC today covers a fairly broad philosophical swath of the party. It’s no longer just the hard-core right-wingers,” [South Carolina Rep.. Mick] Mulvaney said, adding: “If you want to pay dues, you can get in.”

What Mulvaney doesn’t seem to understand is that the RSC is still “just the hard-core right-wingers,” it’s just that now the vast majority of the Republican conference is “the hard-core right-wingers.” When everyone is a true conservative, then, how do you distinguish yourself as a true conservative? Easy! You just stake out a new position to the right of the right-wing majority. Hence, Amash’s “House Liberty Caucus,” which has a Rand Paul-ish name and a (somewhat fluid) membership of “core” House conservatives, like Mulvaney, Rep. Raul Labrador and Rep. Jim Jordon.

So, while Amash and others insist that the Liberty Caucus is a complement, not a competitor to the RSC, the National Journal says that “several RSC members are considering leaving the group altogether next year and pouring their energy into growing the Liberty Caucus.” In other words, a few years from now, don’t be hugely surprised if the far-right RSC is the “mainstream” House Republican caucus to the “conservative” Liberty Caucus, all without any Republican having moved even slightly toward “the center.” (Either that or this Liberty Caucus will flame out after failing to repeal Obamacare by 2016 or whatever.)

This is the entire story of the modern Republican Party, writ small: ratcheting ever rightward.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 18, 2014

January 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“One Trick Pony”: Ted Cruz Cements His Position As The GOP’s Master Troll

On the Internet, a troll purposely inflames anyone he can to attract attention to himself, in hopes of wasting everyone’s time and energy. In the Republican Party, a troll does the same thing and he becomes a hero of the far right and a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced on Monday that he had hired Paul Teller as his deputy chief of staff.

Teller — a favorite of outside conservative groups like Club for Growth — was swiftly fired from his position as executive director of the far-right Republican Study Committee in December after leaking conversations between House members.

Cruz’s new hire immediately won praise from Red State’s Erick Erickson, a leader in the movement to push the Republican Party further to the right by demanding continued standoffs in Congress and supporting primary challenges to incumbents, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) joined McConnell in speaking out against outside conservative groups in December, after several opposed the budget deal Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) negotiated with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). By hiring Teller, Cruz cements his allegiance with the groups who championed his effort to shut down the government over Obamacare, which he was able to pull off with the help of the House GOP’s so-called “suicide caucus,” many of whom are members of the Republican Study Committee.

Cruz’s willingness to spurn his party’s leaders represents just one trick in his impressive arsenal of trolling tactics.

The Harvard-educated lawyer, who argued in front of the Supreme Court nine times, recently published a 10,000-word article in the Harvard Law Review that speaks to one of the darkest fantasies of the Tea Party movement: How the United Nations is coming to take our golf courses.

The Daily Beast‘s Ben Jacobs points out that Cruz is artfully speaking to the fear of a world government, a fringe idea that’s surprisingly widespread among the Republican base. If he spoke about his concerns about the UN on network television, he would be deemed “wacky” or “wackier.” So instead, he’s presenting them in one of the most prestigious law journals in the world.

The senator’s immense intellect gives him the ability to frame his extremism in acceptable venues. And it also enables him to make convenient arguments against the president that serve his agenda but crumble under scrutiny.

In an attempt to brand Obama as “imperial,” Cruz attacked the president for ignoring federal law in effectively allowing Colorado and Washington state to legalize marijuana.

This critique raised the hackles of Jacob Sullum at Reason.com, who points out that the federal government has virtually never prosecuted personal marijuana use. The Department of Justice has retained the right to crack down at any time, something the senator decided not to point out. But for now, the DOJ has decided to use its “limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational way” — as it always has.

But since Cruz lumped his concerns about marijuana legalization in with a screed against Obamacare, he knows that few in the audience he’s trying to reach will parse out what he’s saying.

The shutdown that the senator championed has led to new lows in popularity for the Republican Party.

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However, a big chunk of the GOP’s unfavorable rating comes from the party’s base.

In a recent YouGov/Economist tracking poll, 37 percent of Republicans viewed the members of their own party unfavorably, compared to 10 percent of Democrats. Many Republicans believe the party actually gave up too soon in the government shutdown standoff. They want constant, unwavering opposition and charges of lawlessness against the president.

Essentially, they want the party to be made up entirely of Ted Cruzes.

We’ve been telling you about the remarkable descent of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) from Republican savior to Tea Party troll.

But Rubio’s problem is that compared to Cruz, he’ll always be a squish. He’s dabbled in bipartisanship and proposed “amnesty” for “illegals.” Even if the junior senator from Florida ultimately votes against his own bill, he’ll still be the kind of Republican Ted Cruz lives to crush, even if the senators agree on almost every conceivable issue.

This isn’t because Rubio is not intent on being disruptive or contentious or a “walking press release announcing a no vote.” It’s because he’ll always be in the shadow of a true master of the form.

 

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, January 14, 2014

January 15, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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