Voting Against John Boehner Just Became The Tea Party’s Litmus Test

In this Dec. 12, 2013, photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio rebukes conservative groups who oppose the pending bipartisan budget compromise struck by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and S... In this Dec. 12, 2013, photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio rebukes conservative groups who oppose the pending bipartisan budget compromise struck by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican establishment’s much-anticipated pushback against the tea party wing is underway. Boehner made that clear, when he renewed his earlier denunciation of groups that try to defeat GOP incumbents they consider too willing to compromise with Democrats. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) MORE LESS
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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is quickly becoming a new litmus test for whether a Republican is conservative.

Outside tea party groups have begun targeting Boehner and those who vote with him in recent days.

On the campaign trail, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), the conservative blowhard who actually has a chance of winning the GOP nomination for Senate, took a shot on Monday at one of his chief competitors, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), by saying voting with Boehner doesn’t make you a conservative. Last year Kingston voted for Boehner to be speaker; Broun voted for Rep. Allen West (R-FL), who wasn’t even re-elected to Congress in 2012.

“Congressman Kingston conveniently fails to explain that the National Journal uses Speaker Boehner’s position on issues as the benchmark definition of conservative,” Broun said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “By that logic, the more one votes with the Speaker, the more conservative he is. While we all wish that was a reliable measure of conservative, experience has taught that it’s not.”

The spark that’s fueling the latest anti-Boehner ire seems to have been the speaker’s decision to direct his caucus to support a clean debt ceiling hike rather than raising the debt limit as long as Democrats conceded a list of demands.

Similarly, the Club for Growth said in response to the vote that “something is very wrong with House leadership, or with the Republican Party. This is not a bill that advocates of limited government should schedule or support.”

But other criticism was far more direct. The deep-pocketed Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) sent out an eye-catching email calling for Boehner to be replaced as House Speaker. The SCF has hit Boehner before but as an outside group primarily focused on the Senate its leadership attacks have mainly focused on Boehner’s counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“Republicans are giving up because they know that winning is impossible when their leaders are determined to lose. These leaders have telegraphed weakness to the Democrats and sabotaged conservative efforts so many times that Republicans now have no leverage. There’s only one solution,” the SCF email to supporters said. “John Boehner must be replaced as Speaker of the House.”

Like SCF, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin said Boehner had “failed in his duty to represent the people and asa result, it is time for him to go … Fire the Speaker.”

A House leadership aide dismissed the calls for Boehner’s resignation, saying, “These groups have to raise money to exist, and they can’t raise money if they are being outflanked by others. It’s a race to the fringe and donor lists are the prize.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who was involved in a disorganized coup attempt to unseat Boehner, also took a shot at the speaker over Twitter after the debt ceiling vote.

Harvard political science professor Theda Skocpol that conservatives are likely to continue arguing supporting Boehner isn’t necessarily conservative.

“This is a way to keep pressuring the Republican Party from the right and I think we’re going to continue to see this,” Skocpol told TPM on Tuesday. Skocpol noted that Boehner’s only real big split from the conservative wing of the GOP was in “preventing the country from plunging into financial crisis” by not supporting another government shutdown and agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

This post was updated. It originally included a paragraph quoting Rep. Raul Labrador who actually was one of the first lawmakers to propose a clean debt limit hike.

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