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Republican fratricide: Far Right at war with Still Farther Right

a-party-divided1

Oh, the humanity!

THIS THING is getting pretty ugly (if I might describe it with that oxymoron):

The simmering feud between House Republicans and movement conservatives is finally an all-out war.

The tension exploded on Wednesday morning when Speaker John Boehner and outside conservative groups traded sharp barbs over the budget deal Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) crafted with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). It only escalated later in the day when the leader of the right-wing Republican Study Committee forced out its longtime executive director for leaking private conversations about strategy to those organizations.

The frenzied activity — just days before the House is scheduled to recess until 2014 — represents the ultimate culmination of a power struggle between institutional Republicans in Congress and outside groups, which are funded by well-heeled conservative donors and can pay for primary challenges.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Boehner, an Ohio Republican, accused outside conservative groups of “using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals.”

Republican leaders have long accused those outside groups — Heritage Action, Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity, to name a few — of existing solely to oppose them. Many of these organizations accuse Boehner, his leadership team and some Republican members of Congress of being a bunch of squishes willing to abandon their conservative principles in favor of compromises.

More than 50 members of conservative groups signed onto a statement Wednesday evening responding to both Boehner’s remarks and Teller’s dismissal.

“It is clear that the conservative movement has come under attack on Capitol Hill today,” the statement read.

All of that was private, relegated to fundraisers and K Street lunchroom chatter, until now.

The two sides are fighting over strategy, politics and policy — and, in a way, this skirmish neatly encapsulates the existential battle for the soul of the Republican Party. They are showing the tug between purity versus pragmatism, and loyalty versus the pedal-to-the-metal tactics to drag the a party to the right.

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