Conservatives are urging their grass-roots colleagues to mute their criticisms of House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP leadership, and to get behind their efforts to address out-of-control spending in Washington.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax on Thursday, former GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra said the tea-party faithful need to give Boehner “a little bit of breathing room.”
Democrats and Republicans are preparing to burn the midnight oil Thursday if needed, in order to work out a deal on a continuing resolution that would fund the government and avoid a shutdown.
As Hoekstra’s comments suggest, many commentators now believe the continual sniping at GOP leaders from within the grass-roots movement is no longer helping conservatives attain their overall objectives.
Repeatedly, Democrats have tried to portray Boehner as beholden to ”extreme" elements in his party. They have leaked internal discussions to try to paint him as being unreasonable and inconsistent.
But despite those attacks, so far Boehner has battled Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and President Barack Obama to a standstill over budget cuts.
Rather than the weepy, emotional man of humble origins that many Democrats thought they were facing, Boehner has proven to be a steely-eyed negotiator not prone to the occasional “unforced errors" that some analysts say often hindered former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s deal-making with the Clinton White House.
But despite Boehner’s smooth performance under duress so far, some on the right have been blasting away at him anyway.
"There is no other way to put this," Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips stated last month on the group’s website. "The Tea Party movement should find a candidate to run against John Boehner in 2012 and should set as a goal, to defeat in a primary, the sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives."
Tea Party Express founder Sal Russo concedes there is "some division" within conservative ranks on how best to change the culture in Washington. But he tells Newsmax that although Republicans, with the help of grass-roots conservatives, have recaptured the House, they still only control a modest fraction of the overall federal government.
”We have a liberal Senate and a liberal president to contend with,” Russo tells Newsmax. "And as much as we know the American public has changed, and recognizes that spending is out of control and we need to do something about it, all these people who were elected were elected with the opposite message. So our fight has just begun.
”What we’ve tried to tell people is … the major battle is taking the Senate and the White House in 2012. We’re not going to achieve victory by having a majority in the House.
”So I kind of think all this beating up on John Boehner is not productive.
The problem is Harry Reid and Barack Obama -- there’s our problem. Keep your eye on who’s not actually on our side,” Russo says.
Despite the occasional brickbat flying Boehner’s way from within his own caucus, he continues to embrace the tea party activists who helped make the Grand Old Party relevant again after eight years of deficit spending and the disastrous elections of 2006 and 2008.
On Thursday, ABC News released an interview in which Boehner insisted: ”Listen, there’s no daylight between the tea party and me.”
Boehner added, “What they want is, they want us to cut spending. They want us to deal with this crushing debt that’s going to crush the future for our kids and grandkids. There’s no daylight there.”
Hoekstra tells Newsmax: “I think the tea party has high expectations for the Republican majority. They have high expectations for John Boehner. I think they ought to take a long-term view of this, that this is their first opportunity. ”
Hoekstra adds that once an agreement is reached on continued funding of the government, many in the tea party may feel somewhat disappointed. Indeed, probably no one will be completely satisfied by the ultimate solution on 2011 spending, he says. After all, that matter is only now being resolved because the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress opted not to address it.
“But let’s wait and see what happens with the Paul Ryan budget,” Hoekstra says. “Let’s wait and see what happens with the appropriations bills going forward in 2012.
“Give him a little bit of breathing room,” he says of Boehner. “Don’t make your judgments after three months. It’s tough. They control half of one branch of government.”
At the same time, Hoekstra assures grass-roots conservatives that their views have been heard loud and clear by leading Republicans.
“They feel the pressure, they feel the intensity. But there are also responsibilities here on the tea party’s part,” he said.
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