House conservatives plot to blow up Republican Study Committee over feud with leadership

posted at 12:41 pm on January 13, 2015 by Noah Rothman

When former Republican Study Committee chairman and House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) came under fire for allegedly speaking to a white supremacist organization in 2002, he found himself short on friends among the influential conservative grassroots.

Prominent conservatives like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, RedState’s Erick Erickson, and radio host Mark Levin joined a number of moderate Republicans who initially demanded that the GOP House leadership jettison their troublesome member. When the controversy broke, some conservatives argued that Scalise’s racially questionable past would make it harder for the GOP to appeal to minority voters. Others, however, harbored a grudge from Scalise’s tenure as RSC chairman and saw his troubles as an opportunity to exact revenge.

In late 2013, Scalise removed RSC Executive Director Paul Teller from his post after he was accused of leaking sensitive conversations among RSC members to outside advocacy groups in order to influence the committee’s decision-making. The move came at a sensitive time as Republicans were engaged in an internal squabble over whether to support Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget, a measure that many of the House GOP’s conservative members opposed.

Teller’s many supporters were outraged over his removal. “Teller’s reputation is rooted in his grassroots approach to politics, which sometimes prizes conflict over compromise,” The National Journal reported at the time. “Under his direction, the RSC has witnessed several intense ideological battles–both internal and external–that have cemented his status on Capitol Hill as a conservative agitator.”

“Paul Teller has a sterling reputation and has been a senior staffer at the RSC for many years,” Levin wrote. “This is nothing short of a purge.”

“Teller’s job was to work with conservatives in the House and outside groups to form and promote a conservative agenda,” he added. “[House Speaker John] Boehner needs to go, and Scalise has single-handedly destroyed the RSC, which can no longer be trusted to advance conservative principles.”

“Sterling reputation” or not, the charge that Teller broke ranks and sought to influence the committee’s internal deliberations by leaking documents to outside groups is a serious one. It reflected a lack of discipline on the part of the former executive director, and that is something that no organizational leader can tolerate.

Both Teller and Scalise are gone from the RSC today, but a lack of discipline among that committee’s conservative members appears ingrained in its culture. On Tuesday, The National Journal reported that the RSC’s conservatives are plotting a revolt.

“The members have been talking for weeks, and met Monday night to formalize their plans to institutionalize a competing, invitation-only organization that they see as a real conservative caucus that can push Speaker John Boehner rightward,” the report revealed.

Once a bastion for the conservative movement, the RSC has strayed too far from its original mission and been co-opted by the same party leaders it is meant to exert pressure upon, the members believe.

The new group, which does not yet have a name, will be led by former RSC Chairman Jim Jordan. It will also include Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who lost an election to become the chairman last year, disappointing many conservatives. The other founders are Reps. Justin Amash, Ron DeSantis, John Fleming, Scott Garrett, Raul Labrador, Mark Meadows and Matt Salmon. Most but not all of those members are expected to renounce their RSC memberships, along with other members who will join the group.

This new conservative group, which will apparently seek to exclude the House GOP’s more pragmatic members, will certainly be harder for leadership to control. It will also be smaller, more ideologically homogenous, and much less influential. That seems to be how these members like it.

There is an argument to be made in favor of this move. Conservatives have a point when they say that Scalise’s tenure as RSC chair largely neutered the committee as a voice of opposition to the party’s more moderate members. Obtaining membership in the RSC is not cheap (yes, House members pay for the privilege), and those who claim that the RSC is no longer worth the price of admission are not without cause. Some chafe over the evolution of that institution, which they say has become merely an arm of leadership designed to confer legitimacy on the predeterminations of leadership. “The RSC today covers a fairly broad philosophical swath of the party,” Mulvaney lamented last year. “It’s no longer just the hard-core right-wingers,”

Others argue that Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) — a member of the class of 2010, the RSC’s current chair, and a vocal opponent of the conservative mutiny – is no better than Scalise in that he is both loyal to leadership and seeks to advance within its ranks. These are all valid concerns. It is, however, difficult to see what is accomplished by the conservative threat to bolt from the committee. By contrast, it is easy to identify what they are sacrificing.

What might be accomplished as part of an organization with a track record of success, one designed to serve as the House Republican leadership’s conservative conscience, will now be far more difficult as these members have intentionally sidelined themselves. By creating a sequestered group that achieves nothing more than self-validation and facilitates only the nursing of grievances, these conservative members have embraced marginalization. As members of a small minority House GOP Conference, these conservative insurrectionists might enjoy more success in this endeavor. As part of a large, diverse majority GOP Conference, the broadest Republican majority the nation has seen since the 1920s, they can be safely ignored.

From the perspective of Republican House leadership, the decision by these conservatives to blow up the RSC is a miraculous boon. From their perspective, they have been freed of a nagging group of purists who regularly hectored leadership to remain true to their principles and their base supporters. Instead, House GOP leaders can now cite the support of a more moderate RSC when they push their members to cast controversial votes.

The threat of House conservatives to walk out of the RSC is not strategy, it’s petulance. And no one will welcome this maneuver more than the Republican leaders they are supposedly protesting.

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Comments

It seems that Noah forgot how the Republican party came about. Or he’s taking lessons from AP on click-bait.

jnelchef on January 13, 2015 at 5:38 PM

Redstone on January 13, 2015 at 4:12 PM

Cruz made this claim: “There are some who believe that a path to Republican victory is to run to the mushy middle, is to blur distinctions..”

WHO specifically are the “some who believe this”? I want him to NAME NAMES. This is lawyerly game he plays, making vague allegations without substantiating his claims. He had a slew of them yesterday. There’s a “culture of corruption”, “career politicians”. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? He’s a fricking coward. He likes to erect strawmen too. Big time.

As for him being a prez candidate – all he has is talking points he repeats ad nauseam and the stunts he pulls to undermine the GOP. I don’t mind people voting one way or the other (although I would prefer they not undermine legislation which can make it to Obama’s desk), but backbenchers who plot coups against their own party’s leadership are not presidential material. I don’t even disagree with him on most policy issues. It’s his tactics which are unforgivable.

Buy Danish on January 13, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Buy Danish on January 13, 2015 at 4:00 PM

The only distinction between the GOP and democrats: democrats rarely go after their own.
Establishment went after tea party even before the election of 2010. Tea Party gave them the House.
Republican Party Platform 2012….McConnell and Boehner don’t even go through the motions anymore.
Need proof? Check out what Boehner is going to do about executive amnesty. Nothing.
Nothing.

HornetSting on January 13, 2015 at 5:44 PM

If the RSC’s original intention was to advance conservative issues what’s wrong with revising the group when the membership has become no different that the GOP leadership?

Do people tell the CBC that they have to stop being mostly black people because that makes their group to homogenized?

Are we really going to have 2 years of hearing how the GOP moderates don’t need the conservatives so we better sit down & shut up or we’ll be sent to the kiddie table?

katiejane on January 13, 2015 at 6:11 PM

Cruz made this claim: “There are some who believe that a path to Republican victory is to run to the mushy middle, is to blur distinctions..”

WHO specifically are the “some who believe this”? I want him to NAME NAMES.
Buy Danish on January 13, 2015 at 5:39 PM

I can name a couple. Noah Rothman and Buy Danish.

bluegill on January 13, 2015 at 6:25 PM

All I had to read was Raul Labrador founding member. How can you lay a Conservative foundation when senior members in the group like Raul Labrador? What was Raul Labrador’s first act of being sworn back into office in 2015? He voted for Boehner as speaker. Now that is a guy who can’t be controlled by Republican leadership, besides the fact he voted for them. MAVERICK!

Btw, Raul Labrador supports this little thing called amnesty. Anything else you need to know about a group with someone like Raul Labrador as a founding member?

CommieJuice on January 13, 2015 at 6:46 PM

Does Noah get more tingles when he sees or hears Boehner? Obama and the DNC liberals have Chris Matthews, Boehner and the GOP liberals have Noah Rothman. One of those groups have the south end of that deal.

CommieJuice on January 13, 2015 at 6:56 PM

Now you know why I spread my keyboard wings and flew off to other sites.

Bishop on January 13, 2015 at 1:10 PM

Yeah, what the hell happened? Malkin wouldn’t recognize the place.

Next up: pony tails, cool jazz, bicycle trips and the banhammer.

29Victor on January 13, 2015 at 7:05 PM

This is a salutary development. If they’d been organized into a caucus that voted as a block, they probably could have blocked Boehner’s reelection this year. A voting solid block that sticks together can play all kind of mischief with the Establishment’s gimmicks to grow the administrative state and kiss the Chamber of Commerce’s ring.

No name yet? I’d call it the “Jelly Bean Caucus,” after Reagan’s favorite snack.

saltlick on January 13, 2015 at 7:14 PM

And to take one of your examples – The idiot Tea Party/libertarians forced McConnell to waste MILLIONS squishing Matt Bevin in the primaries.

Poor little McConnell. How DARE he be challenged!

You think he should have embraced them with open arms once that effort began?

They are a bunch of meanies and bullies!

Intra-party fights started by the Senate Conservative Fund to try to unseat sitting Republicans?

Really? And the leadership has just been little angels and enduring like Mother Theresa. Maybe these intramural fights would not be happening if the leadership would just follow their own platform they campaign on?

Cruz’s bffs, who funded his disastrous DefundIt gambit (which handsomely enriched his coffers AND gave him a huge database of gullible followers who actually believed him when he said this scheme would work)?

Who approves funding for the US government?

Which resulted in a pointless and wasteful government shutdown?

Where were those DISASTROUS election results that were predicted? Still waiting.

McConnell would have been happy to work WITH the tea party

How? Where has he worked with the tea party in reducing the size and scope of the federal government? He so far has been hellbent at slowing the rate of increase in government and cementing Democrat initiatives.

But he’s not a fool and when a group is hellbent on destroying you, you do what you can to reduce the threat.

If he was following the party platform and listening his base, he would not be under fire from a significant. You don’t see Democrats getting primaried by their liberal base, because they represent their damn base effectively.

And memo to those who engage in coup attempts – if you fail, don’t come back and whine about how unfair it is that you got taken off a committee.

Buy Danish on January 13, 2015 at 4:00 PM

I agree there, don’t attempt a coup and not expect retaliation.

NWConservative on January 13, 2015 at 7:15 PM

My petulance has overtaken me.

This is the last noah post I ever click on.

Bye bye Mr rothman.

You suck.

wolly4321 on January 13, 2015 at 8:39 PM

From the perspective of Republican House leadership, the decision by these conservatives to blow up the RSC is a miraculous boon. From their perspective, they have been freed of a nagging group of purists who regularly hectored leadership to remain true to their principles…

Oh my! The leadership was being hectored! Hectored to be true to their principles! We can’t have principled politicians now can we?

Vince on January 13, 2015 at 9:30 PM

Oh my! The leadership was being hectored! Hectored to be true to their principles! We can’t have principled politicians now can we?

Vince on January 13, 2015 at 9:30 PM

We don’t have principled politicians. We won’t have principled politicians. And anyone holding out hope to that end is bound to be disappointed.

gryphon202 on January 13, 2015 at 9:45 PM

Noah, like Ed, is an establishment tool. I’m here for the comments. Can somebody recommend a site with conservative contributors?

The_Conservative on January 13, 2015 at 10:22 PM

Rothman seems to be touting an up-to-the-minute version of ‘Vote for the GOP. Yes, we know we’re awful and that we stiffed all of the voters who chose us over ‘those liberal Democrats’, but we’re not Democrats!’ I think this last election showed us what we get when we hold our noses and vote for the ‘At least we’re not Democrats’ caucus of the Republican Party elites, the establishment. Suffice it to say that a lot of us are buying Preparation H in bulk now.

If ever we saw a need to dump them, no matter what Democrats are elected to the Presidency or to the houses of Congress, the kiss-off the Boehner and his posse gave to us, the voters, then now is the time. This current situation in Republican leadership tells me that third party is the way to go now. After voting in droves against the Democrats does not seem to have affected the Republicans in Congress. They are still the party of surrender, acquiesence, toe scuffling and forelock tugging, with the Speaker and his spineless crew as the chief panderers to the opposition party.

I’m at the point where I don’t CARE if we burn down the Republican Party with our withheld votes. It took the first Republicans two election cycles in the 1850s to dump the Whigs. With modern communication diversity, it might happen sooner than ten years. It appears that the destruction of the Whigs is a model that we might have to embrace to move our nation forward again.

It’s easy. Simply refuse to vote yet one more time for ‘the lesser of two evils’.

meerbock on January 13, 2015 at 10:42 PM

“Noah, like Ed, is an establishment tool. I’m here for the comments. Can somebody recommend a site with conservative contributors?

The_Conservative on January 13, 2015 at 10:22 P”

Yes, Michelle Malkin daily, John Ransom mostly daily, Kurt Schlicter on Mondays, Mike Adams on Mondays. Many others are available on Townhall.com. Google ‘Jonathan Garthwaite’, publisher.

Here’s a link to Ransom, again the commentors are the delicious gravy on some really meaty columns and articles. Choose a link (like ‘Columnists’) from the banner line. http://goo.gl/3kvjjc

meerbock on January 13, 2015 at 11:18 PM

Noah, like Ed, is an establishment tool. I’m here for the comments. Can somebody recommend a site with conservative contributors?
The_Conservative on January 13, 2015 at 10:22 PM

Agree 100%.

bluegill on January 14, 2015 at 1:01 AM

This new conservative group, which will apparently seek to exclude the House GOP’s more pragmatic members…

So, now “pragmatic” is the term for RINOs? I think we should acknowledge the new nomenclature with a new acronym.

I propose we drop “RINO” and opt instead for:
Pragmatic Republicans In Congress,
Or “PRICs” for short.

Noah’s new nick shall be:
Sycophantic Underling Coddling Kindred Elite Republicans

You can work out his acronym for yourself.

Wino on January 14, 2015 at 5:12 AM

The new group, which does not yet have a name, will be led by former RSC Chairman Jim Jordan. It will also include Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who lost an election to become the chairman last year, disappointing many conservatives. The other founders are Reps. Justin Amash, Ron DeSantis, John Fleming, Scott Garrett, Raul Labrador, Mark Meadows and Matt Salmon.

Why don’t they call the group the Moby Republicans? Mulvaney is in Boehners pocket as is Labrador, who is Boner’s lapdog

Brock Robamney on January 14, 2015 at 5:22 AM

Wino on January 14, 2015 at 5:12 AM

How about this one:
Pragmatic Underlings Segmenting Satisfying Yearnings

Brock Robamney on January 14, 2015 at 5:27 AM

This new conservative group, which will apparently seek to exclude the House GOP’s more pragmatic members…

So, now “pragmatic” is the term for RINOs? I think we should acknowledge the new nomenclature with a new acronym.

I propose we drop “RINO” and opt instead for:
Pragmatic Republicans In Congress,
Or “PRICs” for short.

Noah’s new nick shall be:
Sycophantic Underling Coddling Kindred Elite Republicans

You can work out his acronym for yourself.

Wino on January 14, 2015 at 5:12 AM

Haha! Excellent.

bluegill on January 14, 2015 at 5:47 AM

Boy, Rothman is as close to a Dem operative as you can get and not have a D next to his name.

This whole article is a poor establishment is being talked mean to.

brainpimp on January 14, 2015 at 9:28 AM

You blindly claiming that Ted Cruz is fighting liberalism in Congress simply to advance his WH chances is truly stupid. Why would anyone that is trying to position themselves to win the popular steer so far to the right of the majority of Republicans????

You call me an “idiot”?
Yes, because you are.

blink on January 13, 2015 at 5:51 PM

LOL. I did not say this. Indeed, I would be DELIGHTED if Strawman Cruz focused his efforts on “fighting liberalism”, i.e. – going after the Democrats. Alas, that is not what he does. He spends most of his time plotting to blindside GOP leadership (who, it should be noted, have only just begun to work together in the majority. Cruz’s CRomnibus stunt occurred when Harry Reid was still Majority Leader).

There are only 2 ways to stop or mitigate the “liberalism” Obama/Pelosi/Reid have inflicted on this country. 1. The courts. 2. Legislation. Item #2 can only work if legislation gets through both houses of Congress. On rare occasions we may be able to get enough Democrat votes to survive an Obama veto (such as a repeal of the odious Medical Device Tax -which some libertarians screech about because corporations or something, but I digress). The rest of the time we will be depositing bills on Obama’s desk for him to veto, hoping that these acts will cause Americans to notice that he’s being the obstructionist he accuses the GOP of being. That’s it. Nothing more can be done (short of impeachment, which would be the stupidest move ever).

Just being a loudmouth who demands we STAND UP AND FIGHT does nothing to accomplish #2, and serves only to advance the career of the junior senator with the thin resume’ among those who are prone to respond to these emotional, populist appeals (in what has been dubbed the “Jacobin” wing of the GOP). The good news for you is this populist pitchforking may work for you and your fellow geniuses. Bravo! This is just what America has been waiting for./

Buy Danish on January 14, 2015 at 10:21 AM

Just once I would like for Noah to put on his big boy pants and respond to his HA critics. If I hadn’t seen him on Fox News last week I would swear he was a mythical creation of Salem to annoy the h#ll out of anyone with even a smidgeon of conservativism on this site.

Edith Stifle on January 14, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Anything that Amash is involved in I will not be for…

Bullhead on January 15, 2015 at 11:12 PM