John Boehner's Rare Rebuke Signals Line in the Sand on Tea Party

GOP House Speaker blasts "ridiculous" tea party opposition to budget deal.

December 11, 2013, 1:32 PM
PHOTO: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left,  joined by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., takes reporters' questions, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2013.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, joined by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., takes reporters' questions, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Dec. 11, 2013— -- House Speaker John Boehner's rare public rebuke of conservative groups who oppose a pending bipartisan budget deal marks his clearest signal yet that GOP leadership has had enough of tea party-driven intransigence.

"They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals," Boehner said, his voice rising with anger during a news conference at the Capitol today. "This is ridiculous. Listen, if you are for more deficit reduction, you are for this agreement."

From Boehner, it was a rare and pointed public dressing-down of Club for Growth, Heritage Action, the Koch Brothers and other conservative groups that have urged Republicans to oppose the budget deal. Boehner openly questioned the motives of such groups, demonstrating a far more aggressive posture than he usually takes.

In response to Boehner's comments, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said his group will still stand with lawmakers who oppose the deal.

"We stand with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, members of the Republican Study Committee and every other fiscal conservative who opposes the Ryan-Murray deal," Chocola said in a statement.

"We support pro-growth proposals when they are considered by Congress," he added. "In our evaluation, this isn't one of those."

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Since taking over the House majority three years ago, tea party conservatives have regularly challenged Boehner to push for deeper spending cuts and to repeal the Obama health care law. But after emerging from the government shutdown emboldened in the eyes of his rank and file, the speaker seems to have steadied control of his base.

"American people expect us to come here, find common ground and do the best we can, stick to our principles, but govern," Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said. "That's what this has achieved."

Still, many tea party conservatives are expected to vote against the deal, including Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of the House's most fiscally conservative members.

"It is the typical end of the year deal I've seen from my three years up here," Huelskamp, R-Kansas, said. "It's going to increase spending with promise of spending cuts sometime in the future. At the end of the day it's going to increase the deficit, it's going to raise taxes and fees and it's not going to address the long term overspending problem in Washington which is we need to reform entitlements."

FreedomWorks, a grassroots organization that advocates for individual liberty and constitutionally-limited government, said Boehner's real problem is "with millions of individual Americans who vote Republican because they were told the GOP was the party of small government and fiscal responsibility."

"Once again Republicans, led by John Boehner, are working with Democrats to increase spending yet again on the taxpayers' tab while promising 'savings' down the road," FreedomWorks president and CEO Matt Kibbe reacted in a statement. "We know how this movie ends. How can leadership credibly promise spending cuts later, after agreeing to a plan that rolls back the sequester savings promised two debt increases ago? There's a predictable pattern here."

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said conservatives like Huelskamp should support the agreement because it does not raise taxes, it reduces the deficit and eliminates the worry of government shutdowns next year.

"We've got to find a way to make divided government work," Ryan said. "We understand in divided government we're not going to get everything we want."

House Democrats also began to cautiously embrace the agreement, which Boehner indicated will likely come to the House floor for a vote Thursday.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stressed that her caucus has not had the opportunity to fully review the deal, but indicated she could vote for it.

"We would have preferred something quite different, but we do recognize the value of coming to a decision so that we can go forward with some clarity on other legislation that we want to see," Pelosi, D-Calif., said, citing closing tax and immigration reform as two legislative priorities she would have preferred to include in the package.

The vote later this week will rely heavily on Democratic support, but some key members expressed a reluctance to support it.

Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the Appropriations committee, criticized the agreement for cutting Medicare while also excluding an extension to unemployment benefits. Still, she admitted the deal could have been worse.

"It is absolutely outrageous that we should leave this Congress and go home for the holidays when too many people -- over a million people will not be getting their unemployment benefits," Lowey, D-N.Y., said. "But I think this is the best that we can do at this point."

The House of Representatives is expected to conclude its business for the year Friday.

ABC News' Alex Lazar contributed to this report

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