GOP activists to John Boehner: Don’t cave
By: Katie Glueck
October 11, 2013 04:46 PM EDT
Conservative activists have a message for House Speaker John Boehner: Don’t go soft.
The Values Voter Summit on Friday drew a who’s-who of deeply conservative politicians and activists to a Washington hotel, while across town, House Republicans waited for the White House answer to their proposal concerning the debt ceiling and the government shutdown. At the summit, many attendees were concerned that Boehner would cave to President Barack Obama in the debt ceiling standoff.
“I don’t want to see him capitulate,” said Diane Stover of the Northeast Ohio Values Voters. “I want him to stand strong. Boehner needs to keep in mind, the electorate is in his corner. … He should take this opportunity to make serious changes, move in a different direction than the $17 trillion debt.”
The House proposal includes lifting the debt ceiling through Nov. 20 and reopening the government, along with requiring six weeks of wide-ranging budget talks. Nancy Spicer, a conference-goer from California, echoed many attendees when she told POLITICO that such a proposal merely delays Obama getting his way.
“I’m disappointed,” said Nancy Spicer of California, a member of the Federation of Republican Women. “If you sign a [short] extension, in six weeks we’ll have to readdress. What is that? Six weeks from now, Obama is going to take a stand.”
“Fools,” muttered her friend, who declined to be named.
Before he joined other Republicans senators at the White House for a meeting with Obama on Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) he spoke to the summit. He urged the House of Representatives to “stand strong” amid the government shutdown over Obamacare. That message should apply to other battles Republicans are facing with the Obama administration, several attendees said.
“I am in favor of Republicans standing firm,” said Craig Huey, an attendee from California. “I’m worried about Boehner. I’m worried about him compromising when he needs to stand.”
“If you’re gonna say something, you have to stick with it. What Americans see is waffling from both Democrats and Republicans,” added his wife, Shelley Huey. “Boehner is, in my mind, caving in. His role is supposed to be representing his party and he isn’t. To me, that’s very sad. The Republicans that are standing firm are getting heat. My prayer is they continue to stand regardless.”
Boehner entered debt ceiling negotiations after earning some plaudits from his right flank for maintaining a tough line on the government shutdown.
“We’ve seen the House, John Boehner took the position he did, and I think that in part was because of the leadership of Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, they drove this issue,” said Tony Perkins, the head of the conservative Family Research Council, a major sponsor of the summit. “Well, I should say the American people, they drove this issue.”
Perkins argued that Republicans have been willing to negotiate throughout the shutdown, sending over smaller bills to keep various parts of the government funded.
“Is it a good sign the President is finally willing to sit down and negotiate? Yeah,” he said.
But as the conference unfolded, the headline on the Drudge Report blared “SURRENDER!” featuring a picture of Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
“It seems like he’s conceding early,” said Gary Wiggins, an activist from St. Louis who doesn’t want to see the debt ceiling raised. “I don’t understand the position of [a short-term extension] for the sake of buying negotiating time when the president says he doesn’t want to negotiate.”
Onstage, speakers including conservative radio host Mark Levin and activist Brent Bozell blasted the GOP establishment.
“I’m here to tell you Obamacare is here to stay with the current Republican leadership; it’s not going anywhere,” charged Levin, who derided parts of the GOP as the “status quo neostatist Republican Party.”
Others maintained that there’s no problem with talking to the other side, arguing that any stalemate is the result of Democratic intransigence.
“Boehner’s doing the appropriate thing,” said Jim Edwards, who works in government relations in Northern Virginia. “He’s trying to navigate between his caucus in the House and the other party. The president has flat-out refused to negotiate terms. It’s an embarrassment to the country.”
He added, “You gotta be able to deal with people who don’t hold [your] points of view. I applaud Speaker Boehner for at least attempting.”