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Boehner Lashes Out at Anti-Spending Groups Fighting Deal

By Derek Wallbank
December 11, 2013 6:39 PM EST 19 Comments
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner lashed out at groups that ally with Republicans on spending cuts for mounting a campaign against a budget agreement.

“They’re using our members, and they’re using the American people for their own goals, this is ridiculous,” Boehner said today at the Capitol as he backed the deal that would remove the risk of a government shutdown. “If you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement.”

Boehner has been willing to let Republicans follow the lead of organizations including Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth, which urge deeper cuts than Democrats and some Republicans endorse. Such groups egged on Republicans to defund the health-care law, creating an impasse that helped lead to a government shutdown in October.

The groups’ complaints about last night’s budget agreement mark the latest round of Republican divisions that have made it difficult for Boehner to hold his caucus together on fiscal issues as both parties look ahead to next year’s midterm elections.

The budget plan worked out by a special committee would set U.S. discretionary spending at about $1.01 trillion for this fiscal year, higher than the $967 billion required in a 2011 budget plan.

The accord would ease automatic spending cuts known as sequestration by $40 billion in 2014 and $20 billion in 2015.

The plan raises fees including on airline passengers, and is projected to cut the federal deficit by $23 billion over 10 years. The deal repeals a separate airport security fee, imposed after the 2001 attacks, that has been paid by airlines.

Donation Competition

Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, said outside groups are in competition for donations, devolving into a contest over who can be silliest.

“These groups exist on trying to create dissension within the party,” he said in an interview. “They’re a very destructive force.”

Former Representative Steve LaTourette, an Ohio Republican and Boehner ally now president of the centrist group Main Street Partnership, said the speaker’s remarks reflect “sheer frustration with these groups.”

“There’s nothing that could be crafted and signed into law that these outside groups would support,” LaTourette said in a phone interview.

10,000 Calls

Boehner and Republican leaders are establishing a pattern where they push spending cuts into the future, Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, said in a telephone interview.

“I don’t think that John Boehner’s problem is with FreedomWorks or Heritage Action,” Kibbe said. “His problem is with the very voters that were told that Republicans were fiscally responsible.”

Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit group co-founded by industrial billionaires Charles and David Koch, top executives at Koch Industries Inc., rallied opposition to the emerging budget deal between House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, and Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray before it was formally announced.

The group said its members placed about 10,000 calls to lawmakers’ offices yesterday alone, and another 30,000 e-mails. The idea those callers and e-mails are being used by AFP is “a pretty silly notion,” spokesman Levi Russell said.

Keeping Score

Heritage Action, which is tied to the Heritage Foundation run by former South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint, said it would include lawmaker votes on the budget deal as part of its legislative scorecard for 2014. Such scores are used in primary elections to back candidates deemed to be conservative and embarrass those who aren’t.

“Over the next few days, lawmakers will have to explain to their constituents, many of whom are our members, what they’ve achieved by increasing spending, increasing taxes and offering up another round of promises waiting to be broken,” Dan Holler, a Heritage Action spokesman, said in an e-mail. “That will be a really tough sell back home.”

Club for Growth, which has stepped into Republican primaries to back candidates who support less government spending, is siding with Republican senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul “and every other fiscal conservative who opposes” the deal, the group’s president, Chris Chocola, said.

‘Pro-Growth Proposals’

“After carefully reviewing the budget deal, on which we never commented until it was complete, we determined that it would increase the size of government,” Chocola said in a statement. “We support pro-growth proposals when they are considered by Congress. In our evaluation, this isn’t one of those.”

FreedomWorks pointed to Boehner in its comments on the deal.

“I suppose it’s new to hear the speaker talk this way, but these are hardly new talking points,” FreedomWorks’ Kibbe said. “I guess he’s trying to change the subject, because the deal they’re trying to cut is just plain bad. You can’t spin this.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Derek Wallbank in Washington at dwallbank@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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