Dem campaign chief: Conservatives come to Congress for ‘the swag’

The campaign chief for House Democrats on Thursday said conservatives only run for Congress because they like "the swag."

Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said "there is no hope" for negotiating with conservatives because they don't believe in government.

Asked why, then, conservatives run for office, Israel said it was because of the "swag."

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"They like all the benefits of government. They like being on the federal employee benefits plan. They like all that stuff. They like the swag," Israel said on "The Bill Press Show."

Israel accused House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) of being more concerned with preserving his power than keeping the economy going in the fight over a government funding bill.

"Every time that Speaker Boehner has had a choice between moving the country forward and working with Democrats, or caving in to his right-wing lunatic fringe, he's selected option B: Cave in to the right-wing lunatic fringe," he said. "That's not leadership. He's more concerned with keeping the gavel than he is keeping the economy running."

Israel's comments come as Republicans prepare to vote for a government funding measure that defunds ObamaCare. The bill is virtually certain to fail in the Senate.

The White House has pledged not to negotiate over President Obama's healthcare law. Senate Democrats look poised to strip the ObamaCare defunding plank from the current law and send it back to the House.

Conservatives have threatened to oppose any bill that includes funding for the health care law, a pledge that amounts to a threat to shut down the government.

The choice by House leadership to allow for a vote on a continuing resolution that defunds ObamaCare was widely seen as a concession to the conservative wing of the GOP.

Israel put it stronger than that, calling Boehner "a captive of the Tea Party."

Many mainstream Republicans are opposed to the shutdown strategy, concerned with the effect it could have on the economy and the political fallout for Republicans if the GOP gets the blame, as polling indicates the party would.

Israel said that conservatives are pursuing a shutdown strategy because they are in "a right-wing fantasy land."

"They just don't listen," he added. "They only listen to themselves in this bubble; they listen to themselves at the Tea Party caucus; they listen to themselves rant and rave in their individual meetings, but they're not listening to the American people."

Israel echoed the hopes of others Democrats that, if a shutdown occurs, it could create electoral opportunities for the party in 2014. Democrats need to pick up 17 seats to take back the majority, a tall order in a midterm year, but the party believes if the GOP does receive the blame for any fallout from a shutdown, that could make their fight easier next fall.