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August 21, 2014

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February 25, 2014

Fate Uncertain for House Flood Insurance Bill (Updated)

cantorhoyer042613 445x296 Fate Uncertain for House Flood Insurance Bill (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated: Feb. 25, 7:56 p.m. | The House is poised to vote this week on legislation to ease the burden on homeowners seeking affordable flood insurance, but the bill might not have the votes — on either side of the aisle.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced last week that he would bring the bill up under suspension, an expedited floor procedure in which passage hinges on getting a two-thirds majority of those members present to vote “yes.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said on Tuesday afternoon that Democratic support for the GOP proposal was nebulous, at best.

“I presume if you put something on the suspension calendar, you want to it done quickly,” he told reporters at his weekly briefing. “But you gotta get more votes, and right now, although I have not spoken to [Finance Services ranking member] Maxine Waters, I understand that she does not believe this bill does the job that we need done.”

Waters, a California Democrat, was a champion in 2012 of bipartisan legislation with then-Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., dubbed the “Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act,” which reduced subsidies for homeowners to shore up the cash-strapped National Flood Insurance Program.

With flood insurance premiums now skyrocketing, however, lawmakers — particularly in flood-prone states and districts — are clamoring to revisit that law. The Senate last month passed legislation that would effectively halt implementation of Biggert-Waters for four years.

Hoyer said Tuesday that he and other Democratic leaders had not made a determination yet about whether they would whip their members for or against the House Republicans’ proposed bill.

“I’ve just asked this morning, ‘What does the bill do that they’re presenting?’ and I haven’t read the memo yet,” Hoyer conceded.

Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., a lead negotiator in paving the way for the GOP leadership-approved flood insurance bill to come to the floor, dismissed vote count anxieties on Tuesday evening.

“Literally, as we speak, minor edits are being made to the bill so that we can make this a truly bipartisan bill,” Grimm told CQ Roll Call. “I personally think, when this comes to the floor on Thursday, people are going to be surprised that there’s going to be overwhelming support.”

In a letter sent to colleagues last week, Cantor said there were a number of House Republicans who had been instrumental in drafting the flood insurance bill slated for debate: Grimm, Bill Cassidy and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Steven M. Palazzo of Mississippi, Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey and Floridians Rich Nugent, Gus Bilirakis, Mario Diaz-Balart, Vern Buchanan and Dennis A. Ross.

“The Senate bill unfortunately removes much needed reforms and imposes additional costs on taxpayers and is a non-starter in this body,” Cantor wrote.

But Grimm said that House Democrats were at the table, too — including Waters.

“I had been working with Maxine Waters from the very beginning,” Grimm said. “She’s been giving us edits over the last couple of days.

“And Gregory Meeks,” said Grimm of the New York Democrat, “he said to me, a month ago, ‘if this isn’t retroactive, I can’t be part of it.’ And I’m like, ‘Greg, let’s work on it right now and make it retroactive,’ so there’s an example of, the retroactivity of this bill was myself, Cassidy and Gregory Meeks and [Louisiana Democrat] Cedric Richmond.”

Meanwhile, more conservative lawmakers without ties to districts vulnerable to flooding could be put off by the legislation. The Club for Growth, fresh from releasing its 2013 legislative scorecard on Monday, announced on Tuesday morning that it would also “score” the flood insurance vote.

“Congress should end the NFIP and return the flood insurance industry back to the private sector,” the group said in a statement, calling the program, “hostile to liberty and limited government.”

Ben Weyl contributed to this report.

February 24, 2014

Steve King: Too Liberal for Club for Growth? (Updated)

sotu tw026 012814 445x305 Steve King: Too Liberal for Club for Growth? (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Steve King, apparently, isn’t conservative enough for the Club for Growth.

He may be a tea party firebrand and, traditionally, one of the most conservative members of the House, but Club for Growth says that on votes they scored, King was wrong 29 percent of the time in 2013.

The Iowa Republican has a 91 percent lifetime score with Club for Growth, and he was actually endorsed by the Club in his 2012 race. But, this year, King ranked right in the middle of Republicans with a 71 percent score. That’s well short of the 90 percent threshold needed to win the group’s “Defender of Economic Freedom” award. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:07 p.m.
Club for Growth

January 24, 2014

Boehner Tells Leno Government Shutdown a ‘Predictable Disaster’

In between quips about his tan complexion and common mispronunciations of his name, Speaker John A. Boehner acknowledged, in a Thursday evening interview with comedian Jay Leno, that Republicans were to blame for the government shutdown.

“It was a very predictable disaster, and the sooner we got it over with, the better,” the Ohio Republican said during his televised appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

“I told my colleagues in July I didn’t think shutting down the government over Obamacare would work because the President said, ‘I’m not going to negotiate,’” Boehner continued. “And so I told them in August ‘Probably not a good idea.’ Told them in early September. But when you have my job, there’s something you have to learn … When I looked up, I saw my colleagues going this way. And you learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk … So I said, ‘You want to fight this fight? I’ll go fight the fight with you.’” Full story

January 15, 2014

5 Interesting Tidbits From Conversations With Conservatives (Updated) (Video)

A monthly meeting with the press and conservatives lawmakers has become a must-attend event — and not just for the free Chick-fil-A.

The Conversations with Conservatives event, hosted by the Heritage Foundation, brings a group of the most far-right legislators on Capitol Hill together to discuss a wide range of topics. And while lawmakers were, unexpectedly, a bit more reserved on topics like the omnibus this month, they had plenty to say on other issues.

Here are five interesting tidbits from the discussion: Full story

December 30, 2013

The House Year in Review

This year, doing the business of the People’s House was, at best, a struggle. It’s well-known that 2013 was, legislatively, the least productive session in congressional history. Leaders strained to get to 218 — a majority in the 435-seat House (in case you had no idea where the blog name came from). And there were some pretty notable news stories as a result of all this congressional dysfunction.

But as painful as the year was for members, covering the House was a pleasure, one which we here at 218 only had the honor of doing for about half the year.

In that short time, 218 — or “Goppers,” as we were formerly known, which rhymes with “Whoppers,” for all you still wondering about that — had more than a few favorite stories.

Among the labors of love, there was a piece about the 10 Republicans who could one day be speaker, a story on an internal August playbook that went out to House Republicans telling them to profess how they were fighting Washington, and a piece (in response to his “calves the size of cantaloupes” comment) asking the question: How do you solve a problem like Steve King? Full story

December 16, 2013

If Conservative Groups Could Have Sunk the Budget, Why Didn’t They?

It was, by most accounts, a bad week for outside conservative groups.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, blasted them last week for coming out against the budget deal in a kind of declaration of independence after a difficult year of bitter internecine sparring. And despite groups such as Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth bashing the deal and key voting against it, House Republicans overwhelmingly stuck with their speaker.

In the end, 169 Republicans (73 percent) voted for the budget and against their scorecards.

What you didn’t see, however, was Heritage Action or Club for Growth key vote against the rule for the budget deal. Amid all the noise about the budget and the relationship between these groups and leadership, their silence on the rule allowed the deal to go through without drama. A single Republican voted against the rule — and only 16 more of the 62 Republicans who voted against the budget would have been enough to bring it down.

Barney Keller, the communications director for the Club for Growth, told CQ Roll Call that had the groups key voted the rule, it “probably” would have gone down.

So why didn’t Heritage Action and the Club for Growth come out against the procedural vote?

Keller said the group is more interested in providing a “snapshot” of member positions than influencing floor action.

“I think our scorecard serves as a good tool for holding members accountable for what they say,” Keller said. “It’s not more complicated than that.”

“We let the chips fall as they may,” he added.

But would the rule have “probably” gone down if the outside groups pushed against it?

“The claim that they could have taken down the rule is just bullshit,” a senior GOP aide told CQ Roll Call on Monday.

“People are already questioning their legitimacy, and key voting the rule would have been a test of their relevancy that they would have failed,” the aide said.

That seems to be the take among many senior Republicans: The risk of an embarrassing defeat was too great.

“A year ago, our members were more scared of Club for Growth and Heritage Action. After the shutdown, these groups have kind of been marginalized,” the aide continued. “Members are less apt to listen to them.”

Another senior GOP aide pointed out that nearly three quarters of the conference, including two thirds of the Republican Study Committee, were not concerned with the key votes, proving “that their influence continues to diminish and their scorecards are largely irrelevant,” the aide said.

Boehner assailed the groups last week, saying, “Frankly, I think they are misleading their followers,” and that they have “lost all credibility.”

But the groups are still players — inside and outside of Washington.

That’s why House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan had to navigate an almost impossible line of rhetoric last week, defending the deal while praising the groups who were bashing it.

“I think these groups are valuable,” the Wisconsin Republican said on Fox News last week. “The way I look at it is this: They are part of our conservative family, and I’d prefer we keep these conversations within our family.”

Ryan said Boehner’s blowup was a response to some of the groups’ pre-emptive criticism.

“John was frustrated because they came out against our agreement before we even reached an agreement. I was frustrated about that as well, but I see the tea party as indispensable, valuable in helping keep the taxpayer in the game, keep Washington accountable,” Ryan said.

But what seemed to really anger Boehner was that the groups were going after Ryan.

“Boehner takes a lot of criticism, and it mostly rolls off this back,” a senior GOP aide told CQ Roll Call on Monday. “But he is close to Ryan and seemed very offended when these ‘conservative’ outside fundraising groups started attacking the most thoughtful conservative leader in the House.”

Another senior GOP aide summed it up this way: “Boehner is very protective of Ryan.”

Dan Holler, the communications director for Heritage Action, said it was “unfortunate” and “unclear” why Boehner made the comments last week. Much of the substance of the deal, Holler said, was lost because people were focusing on the Ohio Republican’s comments.

“Instead of acknowledging what it was, the speaker made it a barometer of conservatism,” Holler said.

Holler said this budget deal was “typical of how Washington used to work. Where people would get together, cut out their bases and pass deals that incrementally increase the size of government.”

As for why Heritage Action didn’t key vote the rule, Holler said such a move is incredibly rare, if not unprecedented. (The Club for Growth could only think of three times it has ever key voted a rule.)

But more than that, Holler indicated that Heritage Action recognized this was a bipartisan deal, where Democrats would come to the rescue if the deal — or the rule — were actually in trouble.

“The idea that Democrats were going to allow this deal to fall apart, I don’t think is backed up by any of the evidence,” Holler said.

“They weren’t going to allow a $63 billion spending increase to get jettisoned,” he said.

And it’s quite possible that if they had succeeded in bringing down the rule, it would only have sent Republican leaders into the waiting arms of Democrats looking to extract more concessions.

December 13, 2013

RSC Members Reflect on Paul Teller’s Departure

Dozens of prominent conservatives off Capitol Hill are rushing to the defense of Paul Teller, the longtime executive director of the Republican Study Committee who was fired on Wednesday.

Republicans inside the halls of Congress, however, are split.

Some members have expressed sympathy for the man they considered a friend and ally.

“I’ll tell you, my first reaction to hearing the news was, ‘How can I hire him?’” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

Others said he had a history of undermining committee confidentiality agreements, leaking conversations to outside groups and actively working against the RSC when it was pushing a strategy with which he disagreed. Full story

December 12, 2013

On the Budget Vote, Watch the Rule

pelosi 240 101713 445x281 On the Budget Vote, Watch the Rule

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The bipartisan budget deal might have a tougher time passing than Republican or Democratic leaders first thought.

Although House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she didn’t think her members would “let this bill go down,” she also said Democrats are likely to vote against the rule — the procedural vote that brings the bill to the floor.

If that’s the case, and Democrats remain unified in that effort, it won’t take many in the GOP to sink the rule.

There are many more than 20 Republicans who hate this deal. A group of them assembled at a monthly “Conversations with Conservatives” event Wednesday, where Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, said the only part of him that was “undecided” on this vote was “whether I’m a strong no or a really strong no.”

”I think it’s a terrible plan,” he said.

Indeed, plenty of conservatives — who have exhibited willingness in the past to play politics with the procedural rule vote — are wondering what’s in this deal for them.

To make matters worse, those Republican members are frequently in contact with the outside conservatives groups that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has blasted for two consecutive days. And given the news releases and Twitter fights, conservative groups such as Heritage Action for America abhor this deal and GOP leadership more than ever before. (To make matters even worse, a top conservative staffer beloved by the groups was forced to resign Wednesday amid charges that he was leaking member-level conversations to the groups.)

If the conservative groups and the band of Republicans can mount a speedy offensive, they can sink the rule, and, potentially, the budget deal.

For Democrats, there’s a calculated risk in allowing that to happen. On one hand, this is probably just about the only budget deal they’re going to get. Allowing it to go down could prevent any sort of relief from the sequester. On the other, if Republicans need help on the rule, Democrats might — just might — be able to extract some other legislative concessions, and tops on their wish list is an extension of unemployment insurance.

Democrats have made it clear that the absence of an unemployment insurance extension is a major issue for them. Pelosi herself has issued less than lukewarm words on the deal because it does not include it.

Boehner has signaled that Republicans could be open to dealing with that issue separately from the budget, but he has made no firm commitment. Democrats, meanwhile, are insistent Congress extend the benefits.

On Thursday, Pelosi said she didn’t “even think it should be paid for,” a reference to the Republican insistence that such an extension have an offset.

Either way, the rule is due up for consideration on Thursday afternoon. It’s an open question how it plays out. Will Republicans be able to pass the rule on their own? Will any Republicans break from their ranks? Will Democrats help at all? And what might the legislative implications be if Democrats have to help?

December 11, 2013

Little Evidence of Major GOP Revolt on Budget Deal

Roskam041513 445x306 Little Evidence of Major GOP Revolt on Budget Deal

Roskam said he thinks the budget deal will get “strong support” from the Republican Conference. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There wasn’t much of evidence of a major revolt against the budget deal brewing among House Republicans Wednesday morning, despite some opposition from those in the party’s right wing to an increase in fees on air travel and letting up even a little on the sequester spending cuts.

While some members spoke against the deal struck between Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., during a closed conference meeting, several senior Republicans and some of the party’s right wing told reporters they were inclined to back it and expect a majority of the conference to fall in line, despite opposition from groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action.

“Every member is going to make their own decision, but I think it was very well received and I think it’s a good accomplishment in divided government, and I think it’s going to receive very strong support,” said Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois, the GOP’s chief deputy whip. Full story

November 12, 2013

Heritage, Club Back in Leadership’s Corner on Obamacare

If you like GOP leadership’s health care plan, so too does the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America.

The two conservative groups, known better of late for their troublemaker opposition to the Republican leadership’s strategies, are back on board as leadership looks to strike at smaller chunks of Obamacare and highlight Democratic divisions.

“It’s a no-brainer for Republicans to spend every day talking about a law that is incredibly unpopular with Americans and getting more unpopular every day,” said Barney Keller, the communications director of the Club for Growth. “It’s a political winner for Republicans, and we’ve said that all along.”

Full story

November 11, 2013

Club for Growth and Heritage Action Back Upton Obamacare Bill

ObamaCare Hearing 24 102413 445x268 Club for Growth and Heritage Action Back Upton Obamacare Bill

Upton is sponsoring a bill aimed at letting people keep insurance plans that don’t conform to the Obamacare law. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America have been sticklers for purity when it comes to Obamacare. Republican lawmakers, the conservative advocacy groups argue, should focus on repealing the entire 2010 health care law, not dismantling bits and pieces or making changes that inadvertently make the law better.

But both groups are fans of legislation that will come before the House this Friday that is intended to let Americans keep their existing health insurance plans, rather than have insurance companies cancel them if they don’t comport with the new standards of the health care law.

“We support the bill,” Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said in an email to CQ Roll Call late last week.

“Generally, we appreciate efforts to focus much-deserved attention on Obamacare, which is increasing premiums, reducing work hours and causing folks to lose their insurance,” Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action, added in a separate email. “Heritage Action’s focus will continue to be on stopping the implementation of this unworkable, unaffordable, unfair law.” Full story

September 17, 2013

Conservatives to Unveil Obamacare Replacement Bill

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Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

While the House GOP continues to grapple with how to defund or delay Obamacare in a continuing resolution or debt ceiling deal, the conservative Republican Study Committee is preparing to unveil its bill to fully replace the 2010 health law.

At a news conference set for Wednesday, RSC Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana and RSC Health Care Working Group Chairman Phil Roe of Tennessee will roll out their long-anticipated “repeal-and-replace” legislation. Fellow GOP Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, John Fleming of Louisiana, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Todd Rokita of Indiana are also expected to attend the event.

The RSC press release announcing the bill’s introduction included no hints of what the legislation might contain. But in August, CQ Roll Call got the scoop on the measure’s anticipated fall debut.

“We’ve obviously fought very hard to repeal the bill, to unravel different pieces on it that are falling on its own weight, anyway,” Scalise said in a brief phone interview at the time. “But we’ve also been working to put together a true alternative that would lower market costs and fix some real problems that existed before Obamacare that are made worse with it.”

Scalise didn’t give a lot of details during that phone call , but said the bill would include protections for people with pre-existing conditions — one of the main benefits of Obamacare. Full story

September 16, 2013

Club for Growth Won’t Key Vote Nutrition Bill

The House is set to consider legislation this week to cut $40 billion from nutrition programs over 10 years in yet another test for House GOP leaders still licking their wounds from the defeat of their original incarnation of the farm bill earlier this summer.

This time, however, at least one of their chief antagonists will be staying mostly on the sidelines.

The Club for Growth, an influential conservative advocacy group that took some of the credit for successfully lobbying Republican lawmakers to oppose the farm bill, told CQ Roll Call on Monday it did not plan to “key vote” the nutrition bill, even though “it’s clear that it’s part of an overall charade to remarry food stamps with farm subsidies that we oppose,” said spokesman Barney Keller. A key vote is used in scoring members’ bona fides before an election.

The nutrition bill, scheduled to come before the House Rules Committee Wednesday afternoon, is the second part of the bifurcated farm bill strategy GOP leaders devised after the original package failed on the House floor, with Democrats saying it cut too deeply and many Republicans saying it didn’t cut deeply enough. The chamber passed a farm-program-only bill before the August recess, with no Democrats voting in favor.

Democrats aren’t likely to support this measure either, which cuts $20 billion more from food stamps (officially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) than it would have in the original farm bill package. The new bill will, among other things, tighten work requirements for childless adults seeking assistance.

“Instead of appointing farm bill conferees, the Republican Leadership has decided to move forward with an unnecessary and divisive nutrition bill,” Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, said in a statement Monday. “Even if this bill is defeated, as it should be, I worry the debate will eliminate any remaining goodwill needed to pass a farm bill.”

On Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, along with Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, will join food aid activist and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio on Capitol Hill for a press conference to set the party’s tone for the week ahead.

September 11, 2013

Norquist Has Leadership’s Back Against Heritage, Club for Growth

norquist091113 445x281 Norquist Has Leaderships Back Against Heritage, Club for Growth

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A House GOP leadership team whose best-laid plans have been continually torpedoed by Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth has a familiar ally as it tries to avert a government shutdown: Grover Norquist.

It’s not hard to find frustration with Heritage Action and the Club for Growth among senior Republicans, who believe the groups’ demand that they include Obamacare defunding language on any spending bill keeping the government open will ultimately empower Democrats in a series of fall battles over spending. They believe it’s part of a pattern of pushing untenable demands that have no chance of becoming law.

“Heritage Action and Club for Growth are slowly becoming irrelevant Neanderthals,” one senior GOP aide said.

“Heritage is working harder to elect Democrats than the DCCC,” another senior GOP aide said, referring to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “And those efforts to defeat Republicans are marginalizing them and destroying the reputation of the institution built by Ed Feulner and once revered by all conservative members.”

A band of conservatives, with Heritage Action and Club for Growth cheering them on, forced leadership Wednesday to delay consideration of the continuing resolution until next week. The strategy from House leadership would give Republicans a chance to tell their constituents they voted to defund Obamacare and blame the Senate for saving it. But it’s a far cry from the shutdown showdown the defund die-hards are demanding.

Heritage Action and Club for Growth call the tactic a “legislative gimmick” and a “bad joke.”

But Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, likes it.

“The strategy on this one is to start by recognizing that you have to play offense and defense,” he told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday. “While we push for Obamacare, we can’t lose on the sequester.”

The CR strategy House Republicans are advancing would lock in the 2013 sequester spending level for three months, though it would not adopt the 2014 sequester levels. Rank-and-file members would be able to say they voted to defund Obamacare, but in the end, the health care law would emerge unscathed.

Norquist said the strategy reflected the facts of the situation: Democrats control the Senate and the White House.

“We have a Democratic president, with a veto, who’s just as committed to his wrong-headed vision as we are to our correct vision,” Norquist said.

“Holding the sequester numbers over time crushes the other team. Neither team can pin the other team, but you can make some progress,” he said.

Progress, to Norquist, is holding the line on spending while slowly delaying and repealing pieces of Obamacare.

“The narrative is already there that the president can and will cheerily delay these things,” Norquist said. “So he could agree to delay other pieces of Obamacare and with a straight eye say, ‘I’m not giving up on this, I’m not giving up on the crown jewel of my administration.’”

Norquist added, “Every time you delay these things, you weaken them.”

That’s the position of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. And it’s probably no coincidence Americans for Tax Reform is siding with them: On nearly every major budget fight in the past two years, Norquist has had leadership’s back against Heritage Action and the Club for Growth.

Norquist backed Boehner on the fiscal cliff, when he said he would not count a vote in favor of the fiscal cliff deal as a violation of Americans for Tax Reform’s no-tax-hike pledge. He earlier backed Boehner’s doomed “plan B” fiscal-cliff plan, which fell apart in part after Heritage Action and the Club for Growth ripped it. And Norquist backed Boehner and the 2011 Budget Control Act and its pairing of $2 trillion in spending cuts with a debt ceiling increase while Heritage Action and the Club for Growth strongly opposed it.

Critics of Heritage Action and the Club for Growth’s all-or-nothing approach have repeatedly pointed to the political reality that their mini-revolts are forcing Boehner to get Democratic votes to keep the government open. And if Boehner needs Democratic votes, they gain leverage.

“ATR gets it,” a senior GOP aide said. “They want to fight to win, not just fight to fight. They know we can defeat Obamacare with achievable victories, not just lobbing ‘Hail Marys’ that only serve someone’s presidential aspirations.”

Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., said he thought Heritage Action and the Club for Growth were jeopardizing the sequester spending cuts.

“You risk losing on spending in the effort to win on Obamacare,” Woodall said. He said he thought the two groups were “overpromising” conservatives and that, even if conservatives achieve successes with spending and Obamacare, Republicans would be “underdelivering” in the minds of constituents.

On Wednesday, during a Republican Study Committee meeting — a closed-door huddle with conservatives that the Heritage Foundation was recently kicked out of — a source in the room told CQ Roll Call that Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said, “The folks at Heritage Action and [the Club for Growth] don’t have their pictures on my voting card or yours. And I’m tired of them elevating small tactical differences to a scorecard, and I’ve told them that.”

Barney Keller, the Club for Growth’s communications director, dismissed the criticism.

“Anonymous GOP leadership aides should spend less time engaged in petty attacks on outside groups and more time bringing bills to the floor that defund Obamacare and increase economic growth,” Keller said. “If I had a nickel for every time some anonymous Republican aide bashed the Club for Growth, I’d take the money and put it all into TV ads in Idaho calling Mike Simpson a liberal.”

Club for Growth is supporting a primary challenger to Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, a strong Boehner ally.

The communications director for Heritage Action, Dan Holler — who also took issue with staffers anonymously taking shots at his organization — told CQ Roll Call that Heritage Action hasn’t been marginalized.

“The problem with anonymous quotes is there’s no accountability,” Holler said. “The same folks who come to Heritage and Heritage Action for help when they need votes are the same folks who can turn around and take potshots at their friends.”

While Holler defended the push to defund Obamacare, he refused to attack Americans for Tax Reform.

“Every group is responsible for making the play call that they think is the right play call,” he said.

“Sometimes we agree with ATR, sometimes we don’t,” Holler said. “We don’t agree on the CR gimmick; we didn’t agree on the fiscal-cliff tax hike, but it’s up to the members to take the information and make the appropriate decision.”

Holler relayed a story about an unnamed Republican lawmaker who said Heritage doesn’t allow conservatives to coast. The scorecard makes them explain their votes to their constituents, and the lawmaker said he keeps that in mind. “And that’s perfect,” Holler said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

August 30, 2013

Town Hall Roundup, Week 4: Republicans Making News

Well, we’ve almost made it to the end of the five-week August recess, during which House Republicans who chose to engage with their constituents did so at their own peril, risking ire-filled confrontations over Obamacare and whether undocumented immigrants should get legal status.

This week, members fielded questions on other topics in the news and, in many cases, made headlines themselves.

Addressing an audience in his home state of Florida on Wednesday, second-term Republican Rep. Rich Nugent cast aspersions on the leadership capabilities of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

“I try not to ever criticize anyone in public,” Nugent said, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times, “but at the end of the day, I don’t think we’re getting the leadership we need to get from the speaker of the House.”

During a visit with a conservative group in Charleston, S.C., Iowa Republican Steve King caught the attention of the left-wing blogosphere for saying that too few Americans were working hard enough to warrant government hand-outs.

According to RedAlert News, King called America under President Barack Obama a “dependency state” that would only increase as “we borrow money from China to pay people not to work, and we say we’re going to grow our GDP because we have sympathy for people that are in this country illegally.”

Then there were members who made headlines by not making public appearances at all, such as Idaho Republican Mike Simpson and Energy and Commerce  Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan. Full story

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