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.”
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Trump wants to move the two grants, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant and the Drug Free Communities Act, to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments, respectively. This would result in a $300 million plus reduction in funding, about 95 percent of the cost of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "'I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,'" said Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP chief of staff during the Obama administration. This is the second time the Trump Administration has proposed gutting the agency.
A new report assembled by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has identified more than 500 potential conflicts of interest in President Trump's first year. First, the report notes, Trump spent 122 days at his properties during his first year. He has been accompanied by 70 federal officials and 30 members of Congress. "Second, far from this signaled access to power being an empty promise, those who patronize President Trump’s businesses have, in fact, gained access to the president and his inner circle." Lastly, about 40 special interest groups and 11 foreign governments have held events at Trump properties.