(ABC News) – Years of growing friction between the Republican Party leaders and its Tea Party faction has erupted into what one conservative said today was “full-scale civil war.”
House Speaker John Boehner, whose strategies have been repeatedly thwarted by Tea Party revolts in recent years, was blunt today when asked whether he thought the ultra-conservatives should get in line.
“I don’t care what they do,” Boehner replied.
The speaker lashed out at Tea Party activists.
“Well, frankly, I think they’re misleading their followers,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters today. “I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be.”
“And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility,” Boehner said.
Boehner’s frustration is perhaps matched by the fury among tea party conservatives who believe they have been betrayed by conservative leaders in Washington.
“It’s just another example of D.C. elitism. They think they know what’s best for the rest of the country and they want us to just sit down and shut up,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, told ABC News today.
Wednesday brought a double dose of betrayal from Republican leadership, in the tea party’s view.
The budget proposal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-W.I., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., was warmly embraced by Republican leadership.
The tea party followers believe the deal was inadequate, but they were also angered when Boehner slammed outside groups for their ” ridiculous” criticism of the deal.
Boehner said today he has decided to take his conference in a different direction after conservatives in his party pushed a showdown to defund Obamacare that led to a government shutdown — and some of the Republican Party’s worst approval ratings in public polling.
“You know, they pushed into this fight to defund ‘Obamacare’ and to shut down the government,” Boehner said. “Most of you know, my members know, that wasn’t exactly the strategy that I had in mind.”
“But if you recall, the day before the government reopened… one of these groups stood up and said, well, we never really thought it would work,” he added. “Are you kidding me?”
Relations were further strained when Republican leaders on Wednesday fired high level staffer Paul Teller, who often served as the liaison between members of Congress and outside activists.
“It’s sad that this conflict has broken out into full-scale civil war, but this moment has been festering for years,” wrote Daniel Horowitz, the policy director of the Madison Project, a conservative group that has sought candidates to challenge Republican incumbents in primaries, in a statement. “There can be no reconciliation between those who seek power for power’s sake and those who seek to serve in order to restore our Republic.”
Teller, the executive director of the Republican Study Committee, an independent research arm for House Republicans, was reportedly accused of leaking private lawmaker-only information to these outside groups.
Brent Bozell, chairman of For America, a Tea Party group that undersigned a letter to Republican leadership Wednesday night from more than 30 Tea Party groups angry over Teller’s dismissal, said that his removal was an act of war.
“They were just out to get rid of him in a declaration of war on conservatives which is really, really stupid,” Bozell said. “They’re trying to intimidate conservatives and this one is going to backfire on them.”
“They’ve now made it personal,” he added. “It is now a personal attack on conservatives.”
According to Bozell, communication between Congressional leaders and outside activist groups is now “very, very bad.”
All of this comes as the popularity of the Tea Party is viewed unfavorably by a majority of Americans for the first time, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.
And the budget compromise brokered by bi-partisan negotiators is slated to come up for a vote Thursday despite a vocal minority of opponents, a clear indication that Boehner is no longer willing to allow opposition from his right wing to stymie his agenda.
However, Bozell suggested that Republican leaders are trying to push a vote through a quickly as possible because they fear a rising tide of opposition.
“You would see a stampede develop,” Bozell said. “The more people look in it, the more negatively they view it.”