Not chas­tened, af­ter loss Con­ser­va­tives take steps to chal­lenge weak Repub­li­cans

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Far from chas­tened by the debt de­bate, tea par­ty­ers and con­ser­va­tive groups sig­naled Thurs­day they’ve con­cluded they didn’t lose, but rather were sab­o­taged from within by weak Repub­li­cans — and they took the first steps to oust one of them. Mis­sis­sippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel an­nounced he would chal­lenge U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the Repub­li­can pri­mary next year, a day af­ter the GOP’s se­nior se­na­tor voted to end the 16-day gov­ern­ment shut­down and grant Pres­i­dent Obama more bor­row­ing au­thor­ity.

Mr. McDaniel im­me­di­ately saw a flood of sup­port from the out­side groups that had ral­lied against this week’s debt and spend­ing agree­ment.

“Our coun­try can’t af­ford any more bad votes that stem from old friends and back room deals,” said Daniel Horowitz, deputy po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor of the Madi­son Project. “And as wit­nessed from the re­cent bud­get bat­tle against Oba­macare, we can­not win against Democrats if we don’t grow our con­ser­va­tive bench in the Se­nate.”

For the last two weeks the deep di­vi­sions within the GOP have been on very pub­lic dis­play.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and their al­lies pushed to with­hold all gov­ern­ment spend­ing un­less Mr. Obama agreed to can­cel Oba­macare, while party lead­ers called that a los­ing strat­egy and tried to come up with al­ter­na­tives.

On Thurs­day, the GOP ac­cepted de­feat, pass­ing a bill that gives Mr. Obama a “clean” bill to re­open gov­ern­ment through Jan­uary, and to raise debt through at least Fe­bru­ary.

A ma­jor­ity of Repub­li­cans sup­ported the deal in the Se­nate, but the sit­u­a­tion was re­versed in the House, where Cruz al­lies re­fused to sign off on a se­ries of plans put for­ward by GOP lead­ers to end the stale­mate.

Ahead of the vote, each side blamed the other for squan­der­ing lever­age.

Mr. Obama, Demo­cratic lead­ers and even many top Repub­li­cans said they hoped the tea party side had learned some po­lit­i­cal and tac­ti­cal lessons, par­tic­u­larly in fight­ing a fight that now ap­pears to have been fu­tile from the start.

But tea party law­mak­ers say they could have won if all Repub­li­cans had stuck to­gether, and the les­son they draw is that they need to oust those who sur­ren­dered.

“I want my col­leagues to imag­ine sim­ply that Se­nate Repub­li­cans stood to­gether and said: We sup­port the House Repub­li­cans in stand­ing with the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Mr. Cruz said Wed­nes­day on the Se­nate floor prior to the bill’s pas­sage. “If that had hap­pened, I be­lieve this re­sult would have been very dif­fer­ent.”

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