A key outside conservative group is defending its opposition to the Ryan deal before the full details of it were known, saying officials from the group had been in frequent discussion with Republican negotiators before signaling they would oppose its general framework.
“The people who were very close to the deal knew we were going to be opposed, knew when we were going to come out and be critical of the framework. And we actually talked to them ahead of time and said, ‘hey, are the press reports true? If not, tell us where they’re wrong and we’ll stand back,’” says Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action.
“They weren’t able to tell us how the press reports were misleading of the coming deal. We gave them every opportunity to set the record straight. At the end of the day, they didn’t because everybody knew what the deal was,” he adds.
Speaker John Boehner has seized on the timing of the conservative outside groups’ opposition yesterday and today in dismissing their criticism of the deal.
“When groups come out and criticize an agreement that they’ve never seen you begin to wonder just how credible those actions are,” Boehner told reporters today. “Frankly, I think they’ve lost all credibility.”
Holler says the information about the deal that had emerged in press accounts – and we now know is accurate – was enough to decide Heritage Action’s opposition. One specific sticking point: The deal did not achieve “fundamental” entitlement reform. If Democrats wouldn’t give on entitlements, Holler says, “you don’t give away your leverage” – the sequester.
Boehner allies say the decision to preemptively oppose the bill was the culmination of years of turmoil between House leadership and the outside groups.
“During the fight over when the sequester was first put in place, these groups opposed the sequester. Then, when we were going over the defunding Obamacare debacle, they said sequester didn’t matter, only defunding Obamacare mattered,” Representative Devin Nunes says. “Then, before Ryan had even closed the deal with Murray, they had no clue what was in it, they opposed that deal, and now they come out and say we have to keep the sequester in place.”
“You have no credibility,” he says. “It was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, known as a conservative firebrand, says Boehner’s anger is “understandable under the circumstances.”
“I sort of split the difference. If I was against a bill before I knew what was in the bill, that would undermine my credibility,” he says. ”That having been said, it appears that most of the assumptions that the outside groups made about the bill were accurate. So in hindsight, the decision wouldn’t have been any different in their minds.”