For Democrats, the tea party is the gift that keeps on giving. For Republicans, the group is something akin to a flesh-eating virus that threatens to chomp away at the GOP.
The civil war between establishment and tea-party Republicans intensified this week when House Speaker John Boehner slammed outside conservative groups for “ridiculous” pushback against the bipartisan budget agreement, which cleared his chamber Thursday. Tea-party-sympathetic organizations, Boehner later said, are “pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be.”
Washington insiders agree. Sixty-five percent of Republican influencers on the Hill called tea-party challengers to Republican lawmakers “very unhelpful” to the GOP, according to a National Journal Political Insiders poll published Friday. Their presence on the campaign trail leads to further splintering of the Grand Old Party, whose widening rift between establishment and tea-party members has not gone unnoticed by both Democratic opponents and the general public. “Let’s shoot at the opposition, not our own troops,” one Insider pleaded. “Most Republicans think they’re idiots,” said another.
On the other hand, 78 percent of Democratic Insiders find tea-party challengers to be “very helpful.” Democrats depend on ultraconservatives candidates like Steve Stockman, who is taking great pains to label his Republican opponent for a Senate seat in Texas, Sen. John Cornyn, a liberal. For them, a divided Republican party means more legroom for Democratic candidates to sweep voters fed up with ideological debates.
Political figures like Stockman do the job of dragging the national Republican image away from the mainstream — and voters — for the Democrats. With midterm elections more than 10 months away, there’s still time for more tea-party challengers to step up to the podium and exacerbate the situation. “For every Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, you get five Ken Bucks and Todd Akins,” said one insider in the poll.
Come next November, the biggest tea-party supporters could be the liberals they want to squash. “We should be forming independent-expenditure committees and super PACs to support any tea partier interested in taking on Republican incumbents,” joked a Democratic Insider. Another summed up simply, “Thank you, Steve Stockman.”
What We're Following See More »
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.
Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.