“Can this marriage be saved?” said Donna Cassata in the Associated Press. It was only a few years ago that the Tea Party movement, along with well-funded activist groups such as Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, helped the Republican Party seize control of the House in the 2010 midterms. Now, however, that relationship may be headed for a “classic political divorce.” After the House approved a bipartisan budget deal last week, Speaker John Boehner lashed out in anger when he was asked why hard-core conservative groups were denouncing the agreement as a sellout. His eyes blazing, Boehner said the groups were attacking a budget they hadn’t even read yet and accused them of pressuring Republicans into unpopular stances. “They pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government,” he said. “Frankly, I just think they’ve lost all credibility.” Even conservative darling Rep. Paul Ryan sided with Boehner, said Dana Milbank in WashingtonPost.com. “You don’t get everything you want in divided government,” Ryan said, adding that he’s “frustrated” with demands for purity on deficits and every issue. Looks like “the Tea Party reign of terror” is over.
That would be a good thing for both the country and the Republican Party, said Jonathan Tobin in CommentaryMagazine.com.Polls show that the American people, including most Republicans, “have had enough of the shutdown mentality” espoused by the hard-line groups. As Republicans head into an election year with a decent shot of taking back the Senate, letting the Tea Partiers keep calling the shots would be a “critical mistake.” These activist groups don’t even care about winning elections, said Linda Chavez in the New York Post.Their primary goal is fundraising, and to stoke up the base, their tone is consistently “hysterical.” That’s why they portray even loyal Republicans as traitors. Boehner had no choice but to push back. By passing the best budget deal they could forge with Democrats, he and other Republican leaders look “like grown-ups capable of governing.”
Pay no attention to this little spat, said Brian Beutler in Salon.com. The GOP’s leadership has to make a show of independence from the Tea Party, so as not to scare off moderate voters in the midterms. But “it remains true that the biggest differences on the Right are strategic, not substantive.” Boehner, Ryan, and the rest remain committed to blocking Obama at every turn, and to pursuing a far-right agenda on taxes, spending, and immigration. Boehner “might be a pragmatist, but he isn’t a moderate,” said Jamelle Bouie in TheDailyBeast.com. Immediately after whining about conservative wingnuts, Boehner blocked a vote on extending unemployment benefits. “Don’t hold your breath for bipartisanship” to break out in Washington.
Don’t be so sure of that, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post.Republican leaders seem to have finally figured out that they’re not going to take back the Senate, or the White House in 2016, by campaigning as “the party of no.” They need to “work alongside Democrats at the task of governance,” and offer their own constructive solutions to the country’s problems. It wouldn’t take much for the GOP to rebuild its image—say, by resuscitating the bill on comprehensive immigration reform that the Tea Party hated. Then voters could find themselves once again “presented with two competing visions of how to move the nation forward—instead of one vision and one cartoon.”