Conservative leaders warn GOP lawmakers on dealing with Dems

A group of more than 140 prominent conservatives signed an open letter to House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday urging them not to “deal” with Democrats in “fiscal cliff" negotiations, and warning them of the consequences if they do.

“If Republicans cave in now, when it really counts, next time you will be weaker, because your conservative base will be outraged,” the letter reads in part. “Many who worked hard to elect you in the past will never lift a finger for you again.”

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The letter is signed by Red State editor Erick Erickson; Citizens United president David N. Bossie; influential conservative donor Foster Friess; American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas; Personhood USA president Keith Mason; Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clearance Thomas; and many others.

There are two outcomes that the signers warned GOP lawmakers against. The first is a scenario in which “just enough Republicans” cross the aisle to “pass what Obama, Pelosi and Reid want passed,” and the second is one in which Republican leadership would “negotiate a ‘deal’ with Democrats and take most Republican Representatives and Senators with them.”

The letter doesn’t outline what scenario would be acceptable in reaching a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff," but it sends a clear warning if either of the above outcomes were to materialize.

“If such deals are made, conservative organizations and conservative and liberty-loving voters would see that the current leadership is not an acceptable alternative to the left,” the letter says. “Let us also remind you that a great many potent conservative organizations and millions of conservative and liberty-loving voters do not believe in the divine right of incumbents to be re-nominated. Conservatives know how to recruit and support candidates.”

“Suppose just enough Republicans cross the aisle to provide Democrats a majority in vitally important legislative battles now upon us,” it continues. “They will find themselves, come election time, the targets of both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, which isn't likely to be healthy for their political careers. Suppose, on the other hand, that the congressional Republican leadership negotiates a "deal," a "compromise," with Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. The historic record of such deals shows that the Democrats usually clean the Republicans' clocks.”

The conservative leaders argue that, despite Democratic control of the White House and Senate, as well as polling that shows Democrats in a position of strength, that it’s Republicans who have the mandate to control the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

“In the House, the nation elected in 2012 one of the largest Republican majorities in the past 100 years,” the letter says. “You have a mandate to fight for conservative principles that is arguably much broader than the one that narrowly reelected President Barack Obama claims to have for his leftist agenda. Of course, House Republicans alone cannot pass a law, but united you can stop any bill which violates the principles you publicly committed to support. In the Senate, you have more than enough Republicans to prevent the passage of anything truly harmful to our country. Nevertheless, you are already being pressured to abandon the principles voters elected you to uphold."

The letter spotlights the tough spot Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is in.

While Boehner has been backed by GOP leadership in the negotiations — House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) both signed his first proposal to the White House — Boehner continues to struggle with some Tea Party conservatives who are urging him not to budge on raising tax rates.

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Boehner's initial deficit offer to the White House included $800 billion in new tax revenues, but the Speaker is resisting Obama's push to raise tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent.

Boehner has also been criticized recently by some in his party for his decision to strip four members — Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) — of high-profile committee assignments.

The move triggered opposition from outside conservative groups that have undertaken efforts to replace Boehner as Speaker. But those calls have not received support from within the caucus.

While Amash has said he might not back Boehner to retain the gavel, Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Sunday confidently predicted he would remain Speaker.