GOP Congressman Rips Tea Party Colleagues: ‘I’m Not Sure They’re Republicans’

Intra-party tensions are running high as end to shutdown nears.

Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (C) speaks as Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) (R), and House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) listen during a news conference after a closed House Republican Conference meeting May 15, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
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Shane Goldmacher
Oct. 16, 2013, 11:10 a.m.

In a sign of the in­tern­al back­lash against the right wing of the House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence, Louisi­ana Re­pub­lic­an Charles Bous­tany ques­tioned the polit­ic­al al­le­gi­ances and mo­tiv­a­tions of his tea party-aligned col­leagues and said they had put the GOP ma­jor­ity at risk in the cur­rent shut­down fight.

“There are mem­bers with a dif­fer­ent agenda,” Bous­tany said Wed­nes­day in an in­ter­view in his of­fice. “And I’m not sure they’re Re­pub­lic­ans and I’m not sure they’re con­ser­vat­ive.”

His com­ments came a day after rank-and-file House Re­pub­lic­ans re­jec­ted a pack­age to re­open the gov­ern­ment au­thored by their own lead­er, Speak­er John Boehner. The res­ult is that a bi­par­tis­an Sen­ate-au­thored deal to end the two-week gov­ern­ment shut­down ap­pears poised to pass with al­most noth­ing of sub­stance gained by House con­ser­vat­ives for the shut­down they pre­cip­it­ated.

“The speak­er has said con­sist­ently un­less we can put 218 votes up, and prefer­ably more than that, our abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate is pretty much un­der­mined and that’s the prob­lem we’ve re­peatedly found ourselves in,” said Bous­tany, who has served since 2005 and is a seni­or mem­ber of the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee. “Look at payroll tax. Look at fisc­al cliff. You can go on and on. There are a hand­ful of mem­bers — the num­bers sort of vary, it’s in the 20-30 range — that are enough to de­rail a Re­pub­lic­an con­ser­vat­ive agenda in the House.”

Bous­tany said those law­makers are so ob­sessed with op­pos­ing any com­prom­ise that they end up driv­ing the fi­nal le­gis­lat­ive res­ult fur­ther from the broad­er GOP goals. “I think there are mem­bers who are in com­plete deni­al about their re­spons­ib­il­ity to gov­ern and to try to use con­ser­vat­ive prin­ciples to get the best pos­sible le­gis­lat­ive pack­age we can get,” he said.

Rep. Mick Mul­vaney, R-S.C., who typ­ic­ally lines up with the most con­ser­vat­ive fac­tion of the House, agreed that the GOP re­jec­tion of Boehner’s plan has res­ul­ted in a “much, much worse” deal at a monthly for­um sponsored by the Her­it­age Found­a­tion Wed­nes­day.

Bous­tany, a former sur­geon who is not known as the most out­spoken GOP mem­ber, said he fears his party’s in­ab­il­ity to rule the cham­ber with its own ma­jor­ity is threat­en­ing its hold on the House.

This could trig­ger a wave of dis­con­tent that could wash out our Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity in the House if we’re not care­ful — it’s get­ting to that level,” Bous­tany said.

And he poin­ted the blame squarely at tea party law­makers who he said were more con­cerned about bol­ster­ing their con­ser­vat­ive bona fides than gov­ern­ing.

“Their al­le­gi­ance is not to the mem­bers in the con­fer­ence. Their al­le­gi­ance is not to the lead­er­ship team and to con­ser­vat­ive val­ues,” he said. “Their al­le­gi­ance is to these out­side Wash­ing­ton DC in­terest groups that raise money and go after con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans.”

Only a hand­ful of House Re­pub­lic­ans have spoken out pub­licly against the hard­line fac­tion of the House GOP, but Bous­tany said the shut­down had grown their num­bers. “There is a very large si­lent ma­jor­ity that’s get­ting frus­trated with what’s hap­pen­ing be­cause of what these out­side groups have done by set­ting false ex­pect­a­tions, de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing the pub­lic on some of these is­sues and com­mand­ing al­le­gi­ance of cer­tain mem­bers who falsely place their al­le­gi­ance to these groups rather than to their con­sti­tu­tion­al re­spons­ib­il­ity to gov­ern,” he said.

Tim Alberta contributed to this article.
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