Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) got a budget deal passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday, but he continued to alienate some of the Republican base in the process by doubling down on criticism of conservative groups.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Boehner, who is in his term as Speaker of the House, said that conservative groups opposing the budget deal are “using our members” and “using the American people.”
Those comments have been called a “line in the sand” against conservative groups and have drawn praise from moderate Republicans, including former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-LA), who referred to the groups as the “Flat Earth Society.”
Conservative groups quickly fired back at Boehner, saying that the deal is a surrender by Republicans on spending and the promise of spending cuts in the future is dubious, at best.
But Boehner doubled down on the criticism on Thursday, shortly before the vote on the budget deal, after a question from a reporter about his comments from the previous day.
“Well, frankly, I think they’re misleading their followers, pushing members into places they don’t want to be,” Boehner told the reporter. “And, frankly, I think that they’ve lost all credibility.”
Boehner then derided the groups for the push to fund Obamacare in September and October, the result of which was a government shutdown. “You know, they pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shutdown the government,” said Boehner. “Most of you know, and my members know, that wasn’t exactly the strategy I had in mind.”
“But if you’ll recall, the day before the government reopened, one of the people at one of these groups stood up and said, ‘Well, we never thought it would work.’ Are you kidding me?!” he added. That particular comment drew laughter from reporters in the room.
Boehner said that he is “as conservative as anybody” in Congress and he not violated any conservative principle. “Not once,” he said. When asked if he wanted conservative groups to stand down on the budget deal, Boehner dismissively replied, “I don’t care what they do.”
Boehner may not care what these groups do, but he should. His comments are ill-advised because he isn’t just alienating groups he needs to help turnout voters next year, but also may have strained his standing with some of his members. Ben Domenech, editor of The Federalist, reported via Twitter that “[s]taffers for people who backed the plan are NOT happy about Boehner’s comments.”
FreedomWorks, one of the groups that opposes the budget agreement and will key vote against it, fired back at Boehner and openly questioned his credibility to make any sort of promises that the deal will reduce deficits.
“Speaker Boehner may not care about what fiscally conservative groups do, but grassroots Americans still care about what he’s doing in Washington. When it comes to ‘credibility,’ actions speak louder than words,” said Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks. “And right now, it looks like the Speaker is leading the charge for spending increases and recruiting Democrat votes in the House to help get it done.
“The math is not that complicated. They are spending another $63 billion that we don’t have. The American people deserve to have a voice in this process, especially since we are going to be the ones to foot the bill,” he added.
The budget — referred to in this space as the “Republican Surrender Act of 2013” — rolls back $63 billion of spending cuts, agreed upon in the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011 and sets discretionary spending levels for FY 2014 and FY 2015 at $1.012 trillion and $1.013 trillion.
The agreement will supposedly achieve the $23 billion in purported deficit reduction through increased fees (ie. taxes) on airline passengers and various changes to minor government programs and larger contributions from federal employees to their pensions. The rollback in the sequester is put on the backend of the 10-year budget window. That’s a problem because a lot could change over that time.
“During this time, we will have had one, possibly two more presidents, and we will have had four different elected congresses with little-to-no ownership of this current deal,” wrote Jason Yaworske at Heritage Action. “The cuts in this bill are so back loaded that a full 55 percent of the cuts ($47 billion out of $85 billion) occur in just the last two years.”
The deficit reduction this bill brings isn’t responsible way to achieve this end. First, it raises taxes, no matter how Boehner and others want to spin it. The other costs savings measures, such as mandating some agencies not to spend excess money from accounts, should have been done anyway.
Thirdly, federal pensions need to be reformed and whatever costs savings are achieved through that shouldn’t be used to finance new spending, which is, unfortunately, what this deal does.
Lastly, this budget deal provides a framework for future concessions on sequester spending. Assume Republicans don’t take the Senate in 2014, House Republicans will face the same doomsday type rhetoric again and again until the much-needed spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act are rendered meaningless.
The battle is now in the Senate, there’s nothing that can be done about the vote that occurred yesterday in the House. Thankfully, many Republicans in the upper chamber are skeptical of the deal, though, there will probably be enough support from Senate Democrats will probably ram it through.