WASHINGTON — House Speaker John A. Boehner delivered an uncharacteristically forceful response to conservative groups lining up against the budget compromise announced Tuesday, accusing them of “using” people to advance their own goals rather than the GOP’s.
Speaking with reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday, the Ohio Republican mocked the powerful conservative forces that he said were staking out opposition to the deal even before its full details were public.
“They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals,” Boehner charged. “This is ridiculous.
“If you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this agreement,” he added.
The Club for Growth, one of the more prominent anti-tax groups, was the latest to come out against the deal forged by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), calling it “flawed.”
“Apparently, there are some Republicans who don’t have the stomach for even relatively small spending reductions that are devoid of budgetary smoke and mirrors,” the group’s president, former Rep. Chris Chocola, said Wednesday.
Another group, Heritage Action, said Wednesday it would urge Republicans to vote against the deal and factor the vote into its influential rating system.
The agreement would set spending levels for 2014 at $1.012 trillion, higher than the $967-billion level that would have taken effect under the sequester in January. It would restore some funding to military and domestic spending programs, paid for with new fees and cuts elsewhere in the budget.
The House is expected to vote on the measure Thursday.
Boehner’s blunt response stands in contrast to his tone during previous budget battles, when conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action were complicating leadership’s efforts to come to agreements with the Senate’s Democratic leaders by coming out against proposed compromises.
When asked about the groups’ influence on his members in late October, Boehner answered simply: “Pass.”
That shift could reflect his confidence that the deal could pass without the support of a block of conservatives, whose votes were needed in previous deals since Democrats were voting nearly unanimously against them.
As members left a closed-door conference meeting Wednesday morning, many expressed concerns with the deal but nonetheless indicated they could support it.
“There’s a lot of mixed feelings about it,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), who said he was still mulling over the proposal.
Responding to Boehner’s remarks, the Club for Growth issued a second statement from Chocola.
“We stand with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, members of the Republican Study Committee and every other fiscal conservative who opposes the Ryan-Murray deal,” he said, adding that his organization did not comment until the deal was complete. “We support pro-growth proposals when they are considered by Congress. In our evaluation, this isn’t one of those.”
Rep. Raul R. Labrador (R-Idaho), one of at least a dozen of the more conservative Republicans who will vote against the deal, also defended the conservative groups.
"What is it that these outside groups said yesterday about this deal that is false today?" he asked. But he also downplayed their influence on his vote. “Anybody who thinks my vote is for sale to Heritage Action is sadly mistaken.”