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As establishment Washingtonians continue to lose popularity with voters, they are becoming increasingly protestant of anyone who criticizes them. Here’s a list of establishment Republicans who have condemned or threatened conservative organizations in recent memory.
Sen. Mitch McConnell
On November 19, McConnell told donors on a conference call that he was going to punch anyone involved with the Senate Conservatives Fund in the nose. “You know how you deal with schoolyard bullies? You punch them in the nose and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch
When FreedomWorks reminded voters in 2012 that Orrin Hatch had voted to raise the nation's debt limit 16 times and also voted in favor of bailing out Wall Street bankers, Hatch was not pleased. He said he was going to punch someone in the mouth for reminding people how he voted. “I despise these people, and I'm not the guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth,” he said.
Rep. Pete Sessions
When FreedomWorks pointed out that House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions refused to sign any letter calling for Obamacare to be defunded, Sessions disputed it. “FreedomWorks’ claims are a blatant misrepresentation of the facts,” he said. “I have stood firmly on the side of the people of the 32nd Congressional District who want to see Obamacare thrown in the dustbin. “
Yet Sessions did in fact refuse to sign any statement that called for Obamacare to be defunded. If that had not been the case, he might not be facing a primary challenger in Republican Katrina Pierson today.
Sen. John Cornyn
Continuing Rep. Sessions’ lamentations, Sen. Cornyn bewailed the fact that conservatives were no longer working for Republicans who didn’t support conservative policies.
“FreedomWorks is an organization that uses Republican on Republican violence,” Cornyn said. “They don’t exist to run against Democrats, they use it to try to divide Republicans, and I think… they’ve undermined our ability… to govern.”
The problem is that Washingtonians view “governing” as agreeing most of the time, even when it leads to policies bad for the country.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger
When Kinzinger appeared on ABC News’ This Week at the end of the October shutdown, he took the opportunity not to talk about the forthcoming Obamacare rollout, but to complain that conservatives were getting too uppity.
My concern with what’s going on… is we’re seeing conservatism in essence being redefined in this country… it’s being redefined by some of these outside groups, your Heritage Action, your Club for Growth, your FreedomWorks. And you have a small group in Congress that has become the surrender caucus. They’ve surrendered their voting card to the wishes of these outside groups.
On the other hand, Republicans in leadership have surrendered their voting cards to the wishes of Democrats in Congress. Kinzinger hasn’t spent much time complaining about that problem.
Rep. Renee Ellmers
In September, Rep. Ellmers grumbled that it wasn’t her fault she had a low score with Heritage Action or FreedomWorks. Asked by a voter at a town hall why her scores with conservative organizations were so low, she replied by complaining that groups like FreedomWorks were wrong to attack Republicans for funding Obamacare:
My question is, why did you go to [Sen.] Richard Burr's (R-NC) office... this is FreedomWorks, why did you go to Richard Burr’s office and protest about Obamacare but you didn’t go to [Sen.] Kay Hagan’s (D-NC), and she was the deciding vote for Obamacare in the Senate?
Ellmers went on to say that groups like FreedomWorks “pick and choose” who they’re going to target. That is true: FreedomWorks’ PAC and other organizations chose to endorse Ellmers during her first campaign in 2010 because she ran on a platform of opposition to Obamacare. Yet it wasn’t until she failed to follow through on that promise that she decided she had a problem with those organizations.
Gov. Haley Barbour
Speaking last month, former Mississippi Gov. Barbour attacked the Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth for spending money promoting the conservative Chris McDaniel for Senate in his state. “We’re not very influenced by outside groups, even outside groups that describe themselves as conservatives. Maybe we’re a little resentful of people trying to tell us our business…. Every penny that’s been spent… has come from New York, California, Chicago.”
Yet Barbour doesn’t oppose all outside spending – only spending by conservatives. He served as an advisor for Karl Rove’s establishment defense fund American Crossroads last year.
RNC Growth & Opportunity Report
Conservative organizations have caused so much consternation for professional Washingtonians, the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Report said they were unhealthy and suggested outlawing them earlier this year:
This is not healthy. A lot of centralized authority in the hands of a few people at these outside organizations is dangerous for our Party. This report pushes hard for campaign finance reform that would help the RNC return to its rightful position as the national Party leader.
It is ironic that Gov. Barbour’s nephew and former campaign manager, Henry Barbour, was one of the leading authors of the report.
From punching them in the face to outlawing their political participation, Washington Republicans have some pretty dystopian visions for what should be done to conservatives who criticize them. It’s cause to wonder whether those Republicans are very conservative at all.