Rep. Scott Rigell (R) is a pretty conservative congressman from Virginia, who opposes both a ban on assault weapons and expanded background checks on gun purchases. And yet, Rigell has been blasted in his district recently with attack ads from a far-right group called the National Association for Gun Rights.
The problem, apparently, is that Rigell supports bipartisan efforts to crack down on illegal gun trafficking, which NAGR apparently considers outrageous for reasons that I can’t understand.
Rigell noticed that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is a close ally of the group, even helping NAGR raise money, so the Republican congressman approached his colleague, arguing that the attack ads are ridiculous and worthy of condemnation. Paul promised to look into it, but ultimately refused Rigell’s request to denounce the group. “It was,” Rigell said, “just indifference.”
This continues to be a source of intra-party tension.
The Republican conflict came to the fore last week during a closed-door luncheon for Senate Republicans, when Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, eyes blazing, stood up and complained about a series of attack ads that she was facing back home from a gun-rights group with deep ties to Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.
Ms. Collins, who faces re-election next year, said the gun ads were an example of the kind of internal Republican warfare that has hindered the party in Senate races the last two elections…. Her comments, according to several Republican aides, ignited a tense debate, similar to many the party has faced since its loss in the race for the White House last year. Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, stood to say he had been raising money for Ms. Collins’ re-election, only to watch her have to spend it to defend herself against the attack from the gun group, which has been directed at other members as well.
Ms. Collins warned her colleagues that if she loses a primary to a strong opponent with gun-rights credentials, it could well cost the party her seat.
For his part, Paul listened, then “stormed out.”
I can almost hear him asking, “Why does everyone keep bothering me about my associations with the loony fringe?”
Ordinarily, senators who annoy their colleagues this much are hampered in their ability to be effective legislators – no one wants to work with a senator they actively dislike – but since Rand Paul isn’t interested in passing laws anyway, the tensions will probably be inconsequential.