Fis­cal cliff talks high­light war­ring fac­tions of GOP

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT -

loom­ing over who chairs the party.

House Speaker John Boehner, a 22-year Washington veteran whose in­stincts for com­pro­mise had been thwarted by the rise of the con­ser­va­tives, is of­fer­ing deals and pun­ish­ing those who defy him. The con­ser­va­tives are swing­ing back hard, pub­licly ques­tion­ing Boehner’s lead­er­ship and of­fer­ing re­minders that they still have con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial and po­lit­i­cal mus­cle.

Four Repub­li­cans per­ceived as dis­loyal to Boehner have been kicked off com­mit­tees, and con­ser­va­tives are an­gry.

“When one comes here and votes his con­science, and it’s not an­ti­thet­i­cal to the Repub­li­can plat­form, why should he suf­fer for it?” asked Rep. Trent Franks of Ari­zona. “The Repub­li­can cause, and the cause of free­dom, is di­min­ished.”

The rup­ture comes as the party be­gins chart­ing a highly un­cer­tain fu­ture.

Repub­li­cans were jolted on Elec­tion Day by losses few an­tic­i­pated. Not only did Pres­i­dent Barack Obama de­ci­sively win a new term, but the party lost seats in the Se­nate and the House.

The party lead­er­ship is far from se­cure. Former Rep. J.C. Watts, once the House’s high­est-rank­ing African-Amer­i­can Repub­li­can, is be­ing men­tioned by some in­sid­ers as a pos­si­ble chal­lenger to Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus when Priebus seeks an­other term next month.

Prag­ma­tists have been slowly mov­ing in a more con­cil­ia­tory di­rec­tion, with Sen. Tom Coburn of Ok­la­homa, long re­garded as a no-tax-in­crease hard­liner, the lat­est to sug­gest he could ac­cept some higher rates in or­der to reach a bud­get deal with Obama, who won re-elec­tion on a pledge to raise taxes on the wealthy.

At the same time, Boehner has de­fied the hard­core con­ser­va­tives. De­spite their op­po­si­tion to any new rev­enue, he and his lead­er­ship team Mon­day of­fered a deficit re­duc­tion package that in­cluded $800 bil­lion de­rived from clos­ing tax loop­holes, lim­it­ing de­duc­tions and slow­ing off­set­ting changes in tax brack­ets. They booted the four Repub­li­cans off com­mit­tees, and Boehner al­lies have been warn­ing col­leagues pri­vately that more such pun­ish­ment could be forth­com­ing.

Two of the booted law­mak­ers spoke out at a Her­itage Foun­da­tion fo­rum this week. Rep. Justin Amish of Michi­gan said Boehner’s move was “a slap in the face to all young peo­ple who are think­ing of be­com­ing Repub­li­can.”

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