Jaws dropped all over Washington, D.C., when House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, trashed conservative groups’ criticism of the bipartisan budget deal unveiled this week and passed overwhelmingly by the House Thursday.
“They -- they're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals,” he said Wednesday in reference to Heritage Action and Club for Growth, who are urging Republicans to vote against the deal. “This is ridiculous.”
And on Thursday, Boehner continued: “I think they're misleading their followers. I think they're pushing our members in places where they don't want to be. And frankly, I just think that they've lost all credibility.
“You know, they pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government,” said Boehner.
What’s fascinating to politics-watchers is Boehner’s all-out shunning of groups that espouse tea party beliefs and were hugely influential in helping Boehner and his party gain control of the House in 2010.
His outburst comes two months after he and his party were hammered by Americans for being responsible for the government shutdown in October, and it exposes a growing rift between Republicans who still consider themselves conservatives and the tea partiers who don't believe those Republicans are “pure” conservatives.
But is Boehner’s strategy a risky one? If the polls are to be believed, Boehner knows his party has hit rock bottom, thanks to the shutdown, and it’s time to start digging out of their hole as they gear up for next year’s midterms. Blaming the tea party and their related entities isn’t a bad place to start.
"Both parties took a hit in the polls after the shutdown, but congressional Republicans got the worst of it,” CBS News Elections Director Anthony Salvanto points out. “With congressional approval still near all time lows heading into an election year, Boehner doesn't want to risk rekindling the voter anger we saw in September."
How bad is it for congressional Republicans? Two months ago, following the shutdown, not only did more Americans blame Republicans for the shutdown (46 percent to 35 percent for President Obama and the Democrats) but congressional Republicans’ disapproval rating skyrocketed to 78 percent from 67 percent in July.
And to top it off: Gallup’s poll released Wednesday showed that, for the first time, a majority of Americans disapprove of the tea party (51 percent).
Along with all the political fights during his speakership, there’s no question that Americans’ sentiment is an obvious education for Boehner and many of his colleagues.
“I think there were a lot of lessons learned over the course of this year, a lot of lessons learned over the course of the last three years,” Boehner said Thursday.
As they prepare for re-election next year, they’re hoping those lessons will allow them to keep control of the House.