The 2010 wave of Tea Party conservatives that propelled Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, into power have emerged during the debt talks as a central threat to Boehner's leadership by increasingly exposing Boehner's inability to hold together his fractious caucus.
The hard-right fiscal conservative wing of the party has proved all but implacable as the debt talk morasse has continued agitating for deeper cuts and pushing for a balanced budget amendment whose scant chances of passing made it little more than political theater. Boehner's attempts to forge a grand budget bargain with Obama repeatedly failed, a rebuke to his move to embrace a deal that included new revenue, something that is anathema to Tea Party conservatives.
On Wednesday, Boehner discarded his typically laid back leadership style -- The New York Times described him plying freshmen with pizza and sliders -- for a more forceful approach, telling his caucus that "I didn't put my neck on the line and go toe to toe with Obama to not have an army behind me" and commanding rank-and-file Republicans to "get your ass in line," according to The New York Times. His most recent plan, to partition the debt ceiling into two separate votes, was dismissed by Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid as "written for the Tea Party and not the American people."
Roll Call detailed how the chairs of the Republican Steering Committee Chairman Jim DeMint,S.C., in the Senate and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in the House have fomented a revolt against Boehner's more centrist approach, emboldened by an influx of hard right members.
"A lot of us are frustrated that a few people go behind closed doors and try to make all of the decisions," said DeMint, a patron of the Tea Party. "I think we've created our own table," he added. "I am not sure we have a seat at the table as much as we have another table."
Aides for the two committees created a listserv that formulated strategies to undermine both Republicans and Democrats. Excerpts from the emails included "Let's keep promoting [Cut, Cap and Balance plan] and bashing the McConnell-Reid plan," "Let's kill Gang of Six today. Today. Dead." and "Today is the day to kill the Boehner deal." Some of the people responsible for the emails later apologize but DeMint's Communications Director, Wesley Denton, was defiant.
"The only power we have is the power of these ideas that voters are demanding to change and reform Washington," Denton said.