After right-wing groups slammed the bipartisan budget deal negotiated by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) (in some cases before the deal was announced), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) hit his breaking point.
“When you criticize something and you have no idea what you’re criticizing, you’ve lost your credibility,” he told reporters Thursday. Speaker Boehner’s frustration has built over his three years as Speaker, as groups like Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, and the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) have stymied his attempts to pass legislation.
In 2011, Speaker Boehner and President Obama were on the verge of a “grand bargain” on taxes, spending, and deficit reduction. The talks fell through, in part because freshmen Republicans and the conservative groups that backed them were unwilling to accept new revenue.
Here are some of the bipartisan and GOP measures the groups have blocked the past three years:
Facing a possible default on the national debt, Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed to automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, unless a “super committee” could cut hundreds of billions of dollars from federal spending over the next ten years. Though Speaker Boehner made in clear in 2010 that when Washington hit its debt limit, Congress would “have to deal with it as adults,” the right opposed increasing the ceiling. With Heritage Action, FreedomWorks and SCF opposed, sixty-six House Republicans voted against the bill.
The 2012 highway bill
With the Highway Trust Fund set to run out of money, House and Senate sent an extension bill to conference committee. FreedomWorks announced its opposition to the bipartisan compromise and said it would score it as a key vote. Heritage Action also opposed the extension and scored it as a vote “to maintain unsustainable levels of funding when we are nearly $16 trillion in debt.” Fifty-two House Republicans voted no.
The New Year’s Eve 2012 Fiscal Cliff deal
As 2012 ended, Congress grappled with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and the beginning of drastic sequestration cuts. After Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reached a deal to extend some of the cuts, let others expire, and delay the cuts, the groups blasted the deal as “higher taxes.” FreedomWorks announced it would count a vote for the bill against legislators, while Heritage Action slammed it before it was announced as a “K Street gravy train.” The deal passed with Boehner’s support, but the majority of Republicans voting against.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in June by a 68-32 super-majority. The bill had the opposition of SCF and Heritage Action. While Speaker Boehner agreed that it was “time for Congress to act,” GOP opposition has delayed any House action until at least 2014.
Efforts to avert the October 2013 government shutdown over Obamacare
The effort to force a government shutdown over defunding Obamacare was driven by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the SCF. Even though Speaker Boehner warned that it was a bad strategy, SCF and the other groups pressured Republican members to oppose any bill to fund the government without killing the Affordable Care Act. As the government shutdown dragged on, Speaker Boehner was forced to pull bills from the floor as members of his caucus refused to go against the groups’ wishes. At one point, he recited the Serenity Prayer at a closed-door caucus meeting at which he announced his “Plan B” was being scrapped for lack of Republican support. FreedomWorks called the standoff a “brilliant strategy,” but Congress reopened the government. Heritage Action said the compromise “will do nothing to stop Obamacare’s massive new entitlements from taking root — radically changing the nature of American health care.”
The 2013 Farm Bill
On October 1, Congress allowed the bipartisan Farm Bill to expire. Attempts to revive the law, which funds programs vital to the nation’s food supply, are ongoing. Citing “myriad flaws with both the House and Senate” farm bill proposals, Heritage Action suggested there were “a trillion reasons not to pass the Farm Bill.” FreedomWorks opposed the more conservative House proposal as “80% food stamps and 100% fiscally irresponsible.” Speaker Boehner backed the House bill, but 62 Republicans joined with 172 Democrats to defeat it.
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