For about four decades, far-right members of Congress have enjoyed a special group separate from the Republican mainstream. It’s called the Republican Study Committee and it’s always been home to the House’s most rigid ideologues and reactionary voices. The faction even releases its own budget plan, and in recent years, has deemed Paul Ryan’s blueprint as far too moderate.
The group has even offered something of a gauge for the party’s overall direction – the larger the RSC’s membership, the more obvious it was that House Republicans had been radicalized.
Now, however, some far-right Republicans have decided some of their brethren just aren’t far-right enough. Politico reported yesterday afternoon:
More than a dozen of the House’s most conservative lawmakers will splinter from the decades-old Republican Study Committee to form a new organization designed to push the GOP caucus to the right.The currently unnamed group will be led by Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Raúl Labrador of Idaho, sources involved with the planning said, and will probably include 30 or more Republicans – many of them among the most vocal critics of GOP leadership.
Jordan, it’s worth noting, is the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee. In other words, he’s leaving his own group to form an even-more-conservative entity.
At last count, the RSC listed 173 members – that’s more than two-thirds of the entire House Republican conference – while this new faction had 37 conservative lawmakers at their inaugural meeting earlier this week.
In an amazing twist, National Journal added that this group will be “invitation-only.” For those who may not be familiar with these Capitol Hill membership groups, ideological caucuses usually encourage lawmakers to join. Indeed, the whole point is to grow in the hopes of wielding more influence.
But for these far-right Republicans, the message seems to be, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”
Of course, all of this helps bolster the larger point: in the wake of a successful election cycle, Republican divisions are a genuine problem.
As the Republican Study Committee breakup shows – on the heels of the failed revolt against Speaker Boehner last week – some of the schisms are within House Republicans. At the same time, as Brian Beutler noted overnight, some of the divisions are also between the Senate GOP and the House GOP: they’re already on very different tracks on issues related to immigration, Homeland Security funding, and even a possible gas-tax hike.
Politico added this morning, “More often than not, House and Senate Republicans seem like they come from different parties, if not different planets.”
With a bruising 2015 just getting underway, Republicans are heading to a two-day retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to see if they can get in sync on their policy priorities – but more important, their expectations.“It’s time to air the differences, see how big they are and hopefully find the common ground,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who served in the House for 14 years. “There’s no downside to it. It’s kind of the peak and then things disintegrate afterwards. This will be the moment of unity.”
For what it’s worth, I think it’s best not to overstate the nature of the intra-party schisms. For all intents and purposes, there are only a small handful of actual Republican moderates left on Capitol Hill – and by historical standards, they’re really not especially “moderate” – and the arguments within the party aren’t especially substantive. Rather, the fight is over tone, tactics, and strategy. The overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans want roughly the same thing; they just disagree over how to get there and whether certain destinations are realistic.
But as we’re seeing, those disagreements obviously matter, and as members sit down for a collective chat this week, the tensions are likely to fester.