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Why Republicans' ‘knives are out’ for Colorado’s Ken Buck

For nearly a decade, Ken Buck has been one of Congress' most consistently far-right members. For some of his extremist colleagues, that's not good enough.


In recent years, far-right congressional Republicans have decided that some of their GOP colleagues are simply not reactionary enough, so these members must be replaced. In Texas, for example, Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales has broken ranks on a handful of key issues, which has led members of the House Freedom Caucus to work on a plan to oust him in a primary race next year.

It’s a radical tactic, though there is a degree of logic to it: Gonzales, who represents one of Texas’ more competitive congressional districts, is not one of the House Republican conference’s more right-wing members. It stands to reason that his extremist colleagues would grow exasperated by his occasional reasonableness.

On the party’s ideological spectrum, however, Rep. Ken Buck is nowhere near Gonzales. On the contrary, the Colorado Republican, nearly a decade into his congressional career, has earned a reputation as one of Congress’ most far-right members.

But it appears that the congressman’s record as an unyielding conservative isn’t quite good enough for some of his colleagues. CNN reported this week that Buck’s criticisms of his party’s evidence-free impeachment crusade have “put a target on his back in conservative circles.”

Now, there is a serious effort underway to find a candidate to mount a primary challenge against Buck in his solidly red district in eastern Colorado, three GOP sources told CNN — the latest sign of tension as the House GOP grapples with internal divisions over everything from its agenda to former President Donald Trump.

The same report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, added that Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wants Buck to be removed from the House Judiciary Committee and the House GOP’s whip team.

The right-wing Georgian told CNN there is an “unbelievable” level of frustration with Buck within the conference, and CNN’s Melanie Zanona said the “knives are out” for the Coloradan.

The tensions are not altogether new. As a Washington Post analysis noted in July:

[Buck] has called into question the wisdom and constitutionality of its impeachment-related efforts; he expressed faith in the FBI and Director Christopher A. Wray as much of his party was pillorying them; and he is among the relatively few Republicans to treat the criminal charges against former president Donald Trump seriously, even saying a conviction would be disqualifying in his mind.

On that last point, Buck, a former prosecutor, has also encouraged the former president to act less guilty, which is actually good advice.

In fact, therein lies the problem: When it comes to the positions the Colorado Republican has taken that have outraged his extremist colleagues, everything he’s said has been true. That includes, of course, Buck’s willingness to note that GOP investigators still haven’t found any incriminating evidence against President Joe Biden, and the fact that their claims about Jan. 6 defendants have no basis in fact.

But the Coloradan’s intra-party critics aren’t saying that they’ve caught him lying; they’re saying they caught him rejecting Republican talking points — which in their eyes, is vastly worse than lying.

For too much of the congressional GOP, dissent is neither welcome nor tolerated. Buck’s willingness to stick to some of his principles has put his career in jeopardy, which says more about the state of his party than his positions.