Taming the Tea monster
Time and again last year, House Republican leaders faced a nearly intractable opponent: the very freshman class that propelled them into the majority with the historic 2010 midterm elections.
Revolting from the very outset of the 112th Congress and later wreaking internal havoc during talks to increase the Treasury’s ability to borrow funds, the massive freshman class repeatedly created problems for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), according to a new book.
The freshman resistance caused feuds among Boehner and his lieutenants that led some to fear a mutiny, heightened several showdowns with President Obama and eventually led to fissures among the rookies, pitting those who seldom trusted the leaders against those who reflexively did, according to “Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” an account of the freshman class’s impact by Robert Draper.
The infighting reached such a point in the fall that some newcomers requested that the weekly freshman meetings be disbanded, because they had turned into shouting matches, with freshmen loudly criticizing the leaders.
“You’ve created a monster,” Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.), a former nurse elected in 2010, warned House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), according to Draper’s book.
The importance of the freshmen has subsided as the House and Senate have scaled back their agendas heading into the fall elections, but the group is poised to play a pivotal role in a lame-duck session in which Congress must reach a compromise or more than $5 trillion worth of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts kick in Jan. 1.
Many freshmen viewed GOP leaders warily from the outset and compelled Boehner’s team to make the rookies the constant focus of its attention. “I didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team,” Rep. Raul R. Labrador (R-Idaho) told the book’s author.
But according to Politico the insurgency has been defeated:
The 2012 meeting of the Republican national command shows just how little has actually changed in the Grand Old Party since the tea-party movement helped Republicans capture the U.S. House majority two years ago and announced that they were a powerful force in American politics.
While tea-party activists have won county chairmanships and seats on state central committees, few (if any) activists have clinched slots on the Republican Party’s 168-member governing committee. That’s not to say that tea-partiers have disappeared or that they won’t get their moment in the sun — but it may take years for them to climb the party ladder the same way as everyone else.
GOP elders sympathize with the movement’s ideas and want to channel whatever energy the decentralized groups offer for November. But when asked about the tea-party’s influence in interviews here, the movement was always spoken of in the third person and as one constituency in the larger Republican coalition, sort of like defense hawks or fiscal conservatives.
Many Republicans here said that tea-party activists now understand that things will run more smoothly if those with experience are in charge rather than those who put a premium on ideology over process.
“The important thing for any group in the party to understand…is that you need experience to govern,” said New Hampshire Republican Chairman Wayne MacDonald. “Everybody has to start somewhere. It’s just important they learn the mechanics of how the party operates…It doesn’t mean new ideas aren’t welcome.”
They sound like Grover Norquist after the 2004 victory talking about the Democrats in congress:
Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."
Nancy Pelosi was speaker two years later. I wonder if John Boehner will be.