Skip to comments.Thunder on the Right: The gang of conservatives who forced John Boehner's hand on the shutdown
Posted on 10/11/2013 1:15:27 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
The federal government had already shut down when Democrats appeared before the television cameras to showcase a poster-sized quote from Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman, one of the dozens of conservatives opposed to any government funding bill that didn't delay or derail Obamacare.
"We have got to get something out of this," read Stutzman's words, in can't-miss yellow type on a blue placard. "And I don't know what that even is." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his top lieutenants chuckled derisively at Stutzman's suggestion that Republicans didn't even know what they're fighting for. Reporters joined in the hearty laughter, and the Democrats' mission was accomplished: As far as everyone in the room was concerned, the Tea Party Republicans were nuts.
The band of uncompromising conservatives in the House and Senate, many of whom arrived over the last three years with heavy Tea Party support, has been called worse, even by other Republicans. They've been labeled anarchists, wacko birds and the suicide caucus of GOP lawmakers who, according to one liberal blogger, represented only "small slivers of white, less-educated conservatives who voted heavily for Mitt Romney."
But whatever the criticism, these relatively young lawmakers have pushed the conservative agenda on spending and Obamacare farther in the past few weeks than the longest-serving Republican leaders have in years.
The group's efforts have strengthened the GOP's hand in upcoming negotiations over a much bigger legislative deal -- a combined plan to both fund the government in 2014 and raise the nation's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit. Conservatives suddenly stand to make significant gains in such a deal, from delaying the health care law to entitlement and spending reforms.
"All I can tell you," said Rep. John Fleming, R-La., "is our constituents are in with us really strongly. They are saying, 'Finally you guys are doing what we asked you to do, not to stand down, not to ball up in a corner, not to roll over, not to raise the white flag, to actually fight for our values and to ultimately make sure our economy is unleashed.'"
Democrats are calling the partial closing of the federal government the "Tea Party shutdown." But is it really? Who is the "gang" of unyielding conservatives who have been the target of so much blame and scorn?
"I would just say it's been mischaracterized all along," said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a House freshman and former small-business owner whose North Carolina district, once held by Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, is 91 percent white and includes some of the state's most conservative communities.
"There are a lot of guys here who have nothing to do with the Tea Party that are supporting this effort because people back home are asking them to do that," Meadows told the Washington Examiner.
Democrats and many Republicans see Meadows as a primary architect of the GOP's fight against any government spending bill that funds Obamacare.
It was Meadows who in August circulated a letter to fellow Republicans asking them to join him in demanding that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., "affirmatively defund" the health care law in any spending measure, even a short-term, temporary bill aimed at preventing a government shutdown.
Eighty House Republicans signed on, forming the core of the group that influenced Boehner and his leadership team to dig in and insist that the health care law be limited or delayed in the budget bill. To pressure their leaders, the group simply refused to support any spending bill that didn't limit Obamacare in some way.
The group has also been influenced heavily by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, who are leading the opposition to Obamacare in the Senate and who have pressured conservative House GOP members to stand firm.
"Really, when you look at it, this has grown organically because we are on the side of the people," Meadows said. "Arguing their point is always a safe position to argue from."
Signers of the Meadows letter are not all typical Tea Party lawmakers.
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., has been serving in Congress since 2003, long before the Tea Party existed. Gingrey is a physician and a conservative deeply opposed to the health care law because he believes it will kill jobs and limit patient access to decent medical care.
Reps. Ralph Hall of Texas, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Jack Kingston of Georgia and Steve King of Iowa are also longtime GOP members who predate the Tea Party.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., also arrived in Congress in 2003, well before the Tea Party's 2010 launch, though he enthusiastically identifies with the group's philosophy.
"I will tell you that my position is that funding bills should include as little money for Obamacare as possible," Franks told the Examiner.
"This is a spending bill, and we have every responsibility to make sure the money that is spent in it is doing something that is good for America and is not diminishing our country, and that is what some of us are trying to do."
Franks' office was flooded with calls about whether he should give up his fight against the health care law and simply vote for a government funding bill that includes Obamacare.
"I get two kinds of responses," said Franks, whose district is 74 percent white. "'No' and 'hell no.'"
None of the House lawmakers opposing the health care law represent mostly black or mostly Hispanic districts, but that does not mean minorities are wholly opposed to their efforts, according to Fleming.
"My district is 33 percent African-American, and my district is strongly in support of what we are doing," said Fleming, whose recent town hall meeting in his Louisiana district drew a nearly all-black audience.
"I was shocked at how anti-Obamacare they were," Fleming said. The claim that opponents to the law are all white, he added, "is more perception than truth."
"They don't want a huge government hanging over the economy like a dead beast," he said.
It's still unclear whether the band of conservative lawmakers will accomplish their goal of delaying or derailing Obamacare.
Many of their fellow Republicans say the goal isn't even achievable. But King, who has been trying to defund the law since 2011, believes the outcome will depend on a public that, polls show, largely opposes the new health care law.
"The American people are going to decided this," King told the Examiner. "The court of public opinion is going to weigh in, and as it weighs in, it will bring pressure to break the deadlock."
King suggests the outcome could mimic the government shutdown of 1995-96, which damaged Republicans politically but ultimately helped achieve some of the party's most important goals because Democrats became more willing to compromise.
"They balanced the budget, they got welfare reform, they did some solid things," King said. "The Republicans won on the policy and lost on the message. I'll take that."
Boehner may have calculated that Obama would negotiate if not over Obamacare, then about spending and entitlements. The presidents uncompromising stance against hostage-taking meant Boehner had to follow through on the threat of a government shutdown and meant that the GOP would shoulder most of the blame for an episode of dysfunction. It also meant, however, that Boehner would get to stand before the cameras every day and show his defiance of Obama, which makes House Republicans swoon.
The longer the crisis goes on, the more Boehner is able to claim battle-forged solidarity with the conservatives who once thought him weak and wobbly. If Boehner wins any concessions at all, he will trumpet them as a great victory. If he gets nothing, he will have led his troops valiantly into battle against all odds...........
Win or lose, Boehner will have damaged his standing only with the Republican establishment, which, you might have noticed, is not in charge anymore. He will have improved his standing with the conservatives who had been grumbling about his performance as speaker.
The party is taking a pounding in the polls approval of the GOP is down to 28 percent, according to Gallup, a record low but redistricting has made the House majority difficult to dislodge. If the public adopts a pox-on-both-houses attitude, with Democrats taking an approval hit as well, Republicans have a good chance of holding on......."
"Earlier this week, after the morning meeting of House Republicans, I found myself deep in a three-way conversation with California Rep. Tom McClintock and another reporter. The reporters questions were well-researched and dogged, ranging from previous House offers to entitlement reform to what default really meant for what the Senate might do next.
McClintock, a former candidate for governor of California, has plenty of question-dodging experience and proved to a master evader, turning every question back to how the House and the Senate are designed to come to independent judgments. It felt a little useless, but I didnt realize how useless it must have been to my colleague until McClintock left. At that moment the reporter whod just pressed this congressman with at least 11 questions turned to me and asked: Who was that?
I tell this story not to disparage someone. Days earlier, Id asked a colleague the exact same question after quizzing a white-haired, middle-aged Republican congressman with a Southern accent. (Hello, Rep. Mo Brooks.) The current House Republican majority, the 232 people who run half the Congress, is mostly male, mostly middle-aged, and mostly white, making it sometimes impossibly hard to differentiate one member from another.
That is one of the many reasons that the press corpsand readers, surelyhave so much trouble identifying who really matters as the shutdown drags on................
.....The Republican conference can show that sort of unity, too, and it has on all of the gimmicky bills produced during the shutdown. Republicans like King have lambasted the Gohmerts of their party, then voted with them. That isnt because theres a secret cabal of 30 conservatives holding the party hostage. Its because most of the members are conservatives, and theyre more responsive to movement activists than to anyone in the business community. If you followed the defund Obamacare movement through the various profiles of a star, like Sen. Ted Cruz, you might have assumed that his crushing defeat would end the standoff. It didnt. Whether the standoff ends is up to the anonymous likes of Reps. Chuck Fleischmann or Luke Messer, people that Jack Lew probably couldnt pick out of a lineup."
Christian delusions are driving the GOP insane "Why arent Republicans more afraid? The entire premise of both the government shutdown and the threats to force the government into debt default is that Democrats care more about the consequences of these actions than the Republicans do. Republicans may go on TV and shed crocodile tears about national monuments being shut down, but the act isnt really fooling the voters: The only way to understand these fights is to understand that the GOP is threatening to destroy the government and the world economy in order to get rid of Obamacare (as well as a panoply of other right wing demands). Just as terrorists use the fact that you care more about the lives of the hostages than they do to get leverage, Republican threats rely on believing they dont care about the consequences, while Democrats do......"
Affordablecare act, sounds so warm, caring, and encouraging for a redistributive money laundering scheme.
. . . If what the House GOP wanted was a Picketts Charge, Boehner showed that he was willing to lead it. . .
Remember, Pickett’s so-called “Charge” was a near thing. It was only “doomed to fail” in hindsight. GENERAL Lee’s judgment might have been right, it was his last change to win the war, he wouldn’t have that chance again, and “the enemy is there.” It came within an eyelash of changing history.
Our fights in this Congress might SUCCEED by an eyelash this time and save this country. In both cases, SENATOR Lee’s (ironic, no?) judgement is correct: You lose 100% of the fights in which you surrender before trying.
“It’s still unclear whether the band of conservative lawmakers will accomplish their goal of delaying or derailing Obamacare.”
The ACA monstrosity is SO economically ruinous and irreversibly unwholesome for this country that is WORTH the careers of a few (all if necessary) Republican Congressmen!
What the h%$# is more important than THIS fight?
WHAT on earth in their long, (and otherwise pathetically mediocre and unremarkable careers) could possibly mean more than this challenge?
Which one of these clowns (I have to call them that NOW) could EVER engage themselves or risk their careers more creditably than in opposing THIS?
What do they have to do in their lives that will EVER mean more than this?
Who are THEY to place themselves above the situation, for ANY reason?
If they CANNOT meet this challenge, why are they in politics AT ALL?
If they do NOT challenge this wholly and heartily, how will they EVER redeem themselves?
Mostly, I am SO disgusted with the Republican Congressmen because the whole thing got THIS far!!
Gang of conservatives = We the people.
Got that right!
Brave souls walking among RINO’s
Exactly. This is Little Round Top. This is Bunker Hill. Although there are no bullets flying, this battle is no less important.
It’s too bad ‘career politicians’ can’t seem to think as clearly on the subject!!!
Or maybe they just have OTHER priorities... who knows!?
Seven years ago my tagline was “ I fear that we are the RINOs. The real Republican party is the big government Dem-lite party.” King is just trying to prove it. If honorable people like Cruz can’t take the party from King, McCain and Graham, then it needs to be swept away like the Whigs for failing to confront the issue of slavery.
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