Boehner Pushes Back Against Conservative Groups' Budget Opposition

The House voted late Thursday to pass the House-Senate budget compromise. Speaker John Boehner urged passage of the "fine work" by budget chairman Paul Ryan, and was critical of conservative groups, who he said opposed the deal "before they've even seen it." The uncharacteristic criticism prompted reporters to ask if this is a turning point.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. We begin this hour with a rarity on Capitol Hill, a bill that not only enjoys bipartisan support, it has the word in its name, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. Well, today the House passed that bill, which sets spending levels for the next two years. Instead of the usual wedge between Republicans and Democrats, the measure has divided conservatives: on one side, outside groups who oppose it; on the other, House Speaker John Boehner. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: House Speaker John Boehner has long had an uneasy relationship with the far right flank of his party and especially the outside groups who often seem to set its agenda. The alerts from FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth and Heritage Action urging a no-vote on the deal weren't exactly surprising, but Boehner's reaction, that was unexpected.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Are you worried that there are...

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: You mean the group that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes, those groups. Are you worried that there are...

BOEHNER: They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous. Listen, if you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this agreement.

KEITH: Reporters have been asking him all year about these groups. In the past, he's responded carefully. Now, it seems the floodgates are open.

BOEHNER: Well, 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.

KEITH: Boehner's complaint goes back at least to the 16-day government shutdown brought on by a push from these same outside groups to defund the healthcare law.

BOEHNER: 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 - one of these groups stood up and said, well, we never really thought it would work. Are you kidding me?

KEITH: When it comes to the budget deal, Dan Holler with Heritage Action says it wasn't unreasonable to oppose it before it was announced because plenty had leaked in advance.

DAN HOLLER: When we see policy heading in the wrong direction, we had an obligation to go out there and talk about that and explain it.

KEITH: Holler says the deal increases spending today for promised cuts years out that may not become a reality. He says Boehner is going against the activist base of the party.

HOLLER: And I think it's a fair question to say, are you content to isolate 40, 50, 60, 80, 90, 100 of your most conservative Republicans to go ahead and push deals through that you know the base of the party who you need to turn out in 2014 is not going to be open to?

REPRESENTATIVE TIM HUELSKAMP: I think conservative groups had it right. Everything they said is accurate.

KEITH: Congressman Tim Huelskamp is a Republican from Kansas and one of the most vocal critics of the speaker.

HUELSKAMP: I mean, how often does Nancy Pelosi go out and kick the left. She doesn't do that.

KEITH: The real question now is whether Boehner's changed tone will also change the way he manages the House. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.