Imagine the ground is splitting open beneath your feet. The rocking plates of earth slowly spread apart, and you’re left straddling both sides to keep from falling in.
That is how some of the most publicly visible GOP lawmakers are feeling right now. They must choose whose side they’re on: establishment Republicans or the far-right flank.
Ultraconservative groups are furious over the omnibus appropriations package that coasted through the Republican-led House on Wednesday. The bill, which would fund the government for the rest of the year, is expected to pass the Senate later this week, but conservatives are not done pushing back. They have put the Grand Old Party’s most vocal members on the defensive on budget issues, and they’re not mincing their words.
“I have often been proud to be a GOP-er, sometimes embarrassed, but never until today ashamed,” said influential conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt during a heated interview with House Budget Committe Chairman and usual conservative darling Paul Ryan this week. For Hewitt, the most offending part of the spending bill is a 1 percentage point cut to annual cost-of-living increases, which translates into a pension cut that would affect active-duty members.
“If you think that I wanted to do this or enjoy doing this, that’s not true,” Ryan told Hewitt of the budget cuts. “Had Mitt [Romney] and I won that election, this would not be required. This would not be necessary.” He added later, “Now do I want to do this? Did I think this was a great thing to do and what we needed to do? No, course not,” he went on. Ryan did, of course, vote for the bill.
Hewitt similarly pressed another Republican guest on his show, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who dodged questions about the spending bill by steering the conversation toward health care.
Heritage Action for America, a right-wing advocacy organization, came out in strong opposition to the spending bill Tuesday, listing a series of complaints on its website. Earlier this month, its CEO, Michael Needham, told reporters during an interview on C-SPAN, “Seventy-two percent of the American people don’t like the Republican Party. I’m one of those right now.”
The conservative Club for Growth had also urged lawmakers to vote no on the bill this week, calling the Ryan-Murray deal on which it is based “flawed.”
Cracks began to show in the conservative foundation last fall, when establishment Republicans and tea partiers butted heads over ideology and policy during the health care debate that forced a government shutdown. The latest backlash against the spending bill shows it’s only getting tougher for some Republican lawmakers to appease their right flank, especially as the party moves toward some action on economic inequality.
Bipartisan effort — especially over inequality issues — is key for Republicans this year, especially in the lead-up to midterm and presidential elections. But any compromise is sure to stick in conservative groups’ craw, threatening to further splinter the GOP. And a fractured GOP heading into the 2016 primary season is exactly the kind of situation Republicans would like to avoid.
While some lawmakers with eyes on the White House straddle the divide, others have drawn their lines. House Speaker John Boehner continues to rebuff his critics from the far-right flank. Some conservatives, including Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, have gone as far as to form their own caucus because the Republican Study Committee is not “hard-core” enough.
This March, Rubio and fellow Sen. Rand Paul are set to headline the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering that doubles as a popularity contest for presidential contenders. How popular these visible Republicans will be within their own party by then depends on how well they can handle a divided party.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."