WASHINGTON (AP) — After years of bitter friction within Republican circles, House Speaker John Boehner is lashing out against hard-line conservative and tea party groups — the latest GOP establishment figure to join the increasingly public battle roiling the party.
For the second day in a row — but at greater length and with more passion — the Ohio Republican on Thursday lit into groups such as Heritage Action and Club for Growth. Though naming no names, he accused such groups and others of stirring up opposition on the right to a budget bill worked out with Democrats that would replace some across-the-board spending cuts now in place with longer-term savings.
"When groups come out and criticize an agreement that they've never seen, you begin to wonder just how credible those actions are," he told reporters. That was just hours before the House was to vote on the bill, which also would raise government fees on airline tickets as well as pension insurance premiums on employers.
"Frankly, I just think they've lost all credibility," he said of the foes.
Heritage Action was a key force behind the "defund Obamacare" effort that swept the right earlier this year and steamrolled stumbling House GOP leaders into October's government shutdown fiasco. "They're pushing our members into places where they don't want to be," Boehner complained Thursday.
Boehner is the latest in a line of establishment Republicans and their allies to mount counterattacks against tea party purists who are pushing the party to the right by stoking intra-GOP battles and primary challenges against longstanding incumbents such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho.
"Yesterday, when the criticism was coming, frankly I thought it was my job and my obligation to stand up for conservatives here in the Congress who want more deficit reduction," Boehner said.