The Congress finally passed and sent to the President this week a bipartisan two-year budget bill intended to prevent a repeat of October’s government shutdown that sent the Republican brand plunging into the subbasement.
The Tea Partiers are outraged, even to the point of branding Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a “tax-and-spend” liberal.
While the House GOP leadership backed the budget compromise, the Senate Republican leaders were in full retreat, scared that the tea partiers would seek revenge on him.
The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), and his deputy, John Cornyn (R-Texas), are facing primary challengers from far right next year despite their solid conservative voting records. They and five other senators are facing primary challenges from the extremist wing of their party along with several GOP presidential wannabes like Rand Paul (Kentucky), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Marco Rubio (Florida), also opposed the compromise worked out by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington).
Ryan and Murray chair the budget committees of their respective chambers. Ryan is the author of several austere Republican budgets and his imprimatur on the compromise gave cover to a lot of his House colleagues.
Boehner’s attack on the extremist wing, charging its refusal to face the reality of governing would lead to another disastrous shutdown, marked a startling new assertion of leadership for a speaker who has until now let the tea party tail wag the top dog.
If Boehner’s move proves to be a game changer and not a one-off fluke, it could improve Republican appeal to Jewish voters in the next election.
For more on this part of the story read my Washington Watch column.