Boehner's Criticism Escalated in Private Meeting

Image: Boehner's Criticism Escalated in Private Meeting

Saturday, 14 Dec 2013 07:58 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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House Speaker John Boehner's public attack on conservative interest groups opposed the bipartisan budget deal was strong, but he was even more outspoken behind closed doors, people who attended a private meeting with him this week tell The New York Times.

"They are not fighting for conservative principles," Boehner told House Republicans in a private meeting on Wednesday, attendees told the Times. "They are not fighting for conservative policy. They are fighting to expand their lists, raise more money, and grow their organizations, and they are using you to do it. It’s ridiculous."

Boehner's tough talk is a sign that the alliances between conservative groups and Republicans are coming untied.

Boehner and other Republican congressional leaders are blaming such advocacy groups as the Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action for America for pushing Republicans to shut down the government this fall over Obamacare, reports the Times, a move that damaged Republicans' standings among the American public.

"The shutdown was the first time a group largely drove the Republican Party in the Senate towards something that was disadvantageous," an unnamed Republican Senate source told the Times.

Congressional leaders like Boehner and Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is facing a tea party backlash of his own as he runs for reelection, are starting to speak out against the conservative activist groups and their influence in Washington and nationwide.

They complain the groups efforts prevent Republicans from defeating Democrats, such as in Virginia, where tea party leader Ken Cuccinelli lost a hotly contested gubernatorial race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Boehner attacked conservative groups for two days in a row, including in a press conference hours before the House approved the budget plan with support from 169 Republicans.

“They’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be,” Boehner publicly about the groups. “And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility.”

But conservative groups called Boehner's attacks an attempt to change the subject from the budget plan, which they complain increases spending and sacrifices previous Republican wins on spending.

Heritage Action Communications Director Dan Holler questioned why Boehner and others are suggesting conservative groups are just pushing to generate contributions.

"This is absurd,” Holler said. “Only in Washington could you have guys who go to PAC fundraisers at swanky restaurants accuse outside groups of doing something for fundraising. It is one of those petty attacks that is intended to shift the conversation away from the policy.”

But top House and Senate Republicans are at their limit with threats of primary challenges from conservative activist groups, say their advisers, and Boehner said he doesn't care what such groups do or if there will be political repercussions.

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