Even House Tea Partiers See The Limits Of Their All-Or-Nothing Strategy

 @pemalevy
on August 29 2013 2:02 PM
Tea Party rally 2013
A Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C., 2013. Reuters

Even the most conservative members of Congress who have helped bring gridlock to Washington by refusing to compromise are beginning to realize the limits of their all-or-nothing strategy.

Exhibit A: The Republican Study Committee, a group that includes some of the House of Representatives’ most conservative members, recently decided to oust staffers from Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, from their weekly meetings. It was a privilege the group had enjoyed for decades.

The move represented, as National Journal reported, a "seismic shift" in the 40-year relationship between Heritage and the RSC, which were both founded with the help of former congressional aide Ed Feulner. Feulner stepped down as head of Heritage this spring when former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, a staunch conservative from South Carolina, took over.  

But the decision is about more than just these two groups. It’s an acknowledgment by (some) conservative House members that their unwillingness to pass anything but the most ideologically pure legislation is ultimately the wrong way to go. Heritage Action just happens to be one of the groups pushing this no-compromise strategy. For instance, the group is behind a series of events during the August recess pushing Republicans to defund Obamacare, even at the cost of shutting down the government along with it.

Some conservatives realize this isn’t a great long-term strategy, even if the people saying so are unwilling to put their names or offices next to their quotes. "We can't score touchdowns on every play; our job is to put points on the board. But all they want us to do is throw Hail Marys,” someone identified as a conservative House aide told National Journal.

On the one hand, GOP House members benefit if they can back up their conservative bona fides to their base with an impressive Heritage Action scorecard number. On the other hand, Heritage is more of a burden than a blessing if keeping that number up means the farm bill expires or the government shuts down over health care reform. As many Republicans recognize, following all of Heritage's demands is a losing strategy.

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