Boehner blasts conservative groups

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday sharply criticized outside conservative groups opposed to the House-Senate budget deal, accusing them of “using” GOP lawmakers to further their own goals.

“They’re using our members, and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous!” Boehner told reporters after a closed-door GOP conference meeting.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Speaker was referring to organizations like Heritage Action, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, which all denounced the budget agreement that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) negotiated before it was released to the public.

“You mean the groups who came out and opposed this before they even saw it,” Boehner asked, interrupting a reporter who started to ask about the criticism from conservative groups.

The Speaker delivered a similar message to Republicans inside the party meeting, when, according to Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), he urged lawmakers not to be pressured by outside activists.

“The Speaker was very clear: There is only person who controls the voting cards of the member of Congress and that is the member of Congress,” Womack said.

Ryan pushed back against the outside group criticism after the meeting.

“I think it’s strange they came out in opposition to an agreement even before we reached an agreement,” he told The Hill.

In publicly denouncing the activist groups, Boehner joins senior Senate Republicans who decried their influence and their motives in mounting primary challenges against incumbents.

In a statement, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola defended the group's opposition and noted that, unlike others, it had waited to review the agreement before weighing in.

“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,” Chocola said. “After carefully reviewing the budget deal, on which we never commented until it was complete, we determined that it would increase the size of government. We support pro-growth proposals when they are considered by Congress. In our evaluation, this isn’t one of those.”

Conservative Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) also pushed back against Boehner's comments.

“If anyone thinks that I am bought and paid for by Heritage Action…they are sadly mistaken,” Labrador said at a conservative event. He said the outside groups were acting on leaks that turned out to be true.

Erik Wasson contributed to this report, which was updated at12:27 p.m.