Finally, we have something out of the Heritage Foundation that is entirely accurate.
In a letter to members of Congress, which was obtained by NBC News, Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of the Heritage Foundation (which recently found itself in hot water over the racial IQ theories of the co-author of their widely panned immigration reform study, Jason Richwine, who resigned from the think tank last Friday), urged Republicans on Capitol Hill not to govern, and instead, to focus on the would-be “scandals” plaguing the Obama administration.
The letter, which is addressed to House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, trumpets the negative media buzz surrounding the White House, saying that, “for the first time, the activities of the Obama administration are receiving a sustained public vetting. Americans’ outrage over Benghazi is amplified by the Internal Revenue Service’s intimidation of conservative grassroots organizations and a cascade of negative headlines. There is the real sense the Obama administration has been less than forthright with the American people, the press and lawmakers.”
Keep the focus off OUR differences
In light of the white hot media spotlight on the administration, and to deflect attention from the many policy areas where Republicans don’t quite get along, the letter urges: “it is incumbent upon the House of Representatives to conduct oversight hearings on those actions, but it would be imprudent to do anything that shifts the focus from the Obama administration to the ideological differences within the House Republican Conference.”
“To that end, we urge you to avoid bringing any legislation to the House Floor that could expose or highlight major schisms within the conference. Legislation such as the Internet sales tax or the FARRM Act which contains nearly $800 billion in food stamp spending, would give the press a reason to shift their attention away from the failures of the Obama administration to write another ‘circular firing squad’ article.”
The letter is signed by Heritage Action’s Chief Executive Officer, Michael A. Needham.
The FARRM Act (commonly referred to as the farm bill,) is winding its way through the House — and is a key priority of members from rural states. Groups supporting programs for the poor were alarmed this week by word that the bill would cut the food stamps program, which is administered through the Department of Agriculture, as a sop to conservatives, who oppose nearly all federal spending.
Now, it seems that even that won’t pass, if the members — who are aware that Heritage Action “scores” their votes for compliance with the conservative group, and its parent, the Heritage Foundation’s agenda — heed the letter’s commands.
Not governing as political strategy
The idea of Republicans not governing is not necessarily new. The House in the current congress has held votes for only 281 days — at least 43 of those days devoted to repeated votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.
And already, fully one-third of the Republican-controlled committees in the House are spending their time investigating some facet of the administration.
It’s ironic that Jim DeMint, the former Senator and tea party favorite, who was famous for stoking ideological fervor on the right, often roiled his colleagues by supporting tea party primary challenges to incumbents. Now, the offshoot of his version of the once-august Heritage Foundation is trying to bring the right wing together around one of DeMint’s favorite old pastimes: obstruction.
Of course, for the party to turn the idea of devoting 100 percent of its time to scandal-mongering, into victory in 2014 and beyond, they need the mainstream media to continue to play along with the scandal circus. Which they might in the short run, but not likely for long.
The air is already beginning to leak out of the Benghazi balloon, after The Weekly Standard and ABC News’ big scoop regarding the editing of post-Benghazi attack talking points turned out to be a case of misread email summaries and much ado about very little.
The president announced the resignation of the interim IRS chief, and named a new interim, following an Inspector General’s report that found no White House involvement in the short-cuts a pair of Cincinnati-based employees took to try and deal with a flood of 501(c)4 applications. And with just one-third of the improperly flagged organizations being “tea party,” Republicans may find themselves counting on one-third of the level of outrage from mainstream journalists who will eventually move on to other stories.
There’s also the seizure of AP reporters’ phone records — which has truly captured the attention of the media (particularly because it’s about the media). While it’s legitimate ground for inquiry, even alarm, by members of the press, the trouble there is that Republicans during the Bush administration were in favor of wiretapping and urged the White House to find the leaker who exposed a successful attempt to infiltrate al-Qaida. Also, it’s hard to imagine Republicans sustaining righteous indignation on behalf of the “lamestream media.”
Still, you can’t fault the GOPers from trying — RNC chairman Reince Priebus called for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over the AP phone records… and John Boehner wants people put in jail over the already closed IRS case… and Senator Marco Rubio is convinced that a culture of intimidation and downright Chi-town thuggery has cast a veil over the whole Washington enterprise, which means they have to come together to do immigration reform, or something…
If Heritage Action rules the day, this will be the strategy of the Republican Party going forward, to 2014.
Good luck with that.
The full Heritage letter is reprinted below. Or you can read it here.
And you can follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.
May 16, 2013
Heritage Action to House Leaders: Keep Focus on Scandals
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Eric Cantor
House Majority Leader
H-329, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor:
For the first time, the activities of the Obama administration are receiving a sustained public vetting. Americans’ outrage over Benghazi is amplified by the Internal Revenue Service’s intimidation of conservative grassroots organizations and a cascade of negative headlines. There is the real sense the Obama administration has been less than forthright with the American people, the press and lawmakers.
Recent events have rightly focused the nation’s attention squarely on the actions of the Obama administration. It is incumbent upon the House of Representatives to conduct oversight hearings on those actions, but it would be imprudent to do anything that shifts the focus from the Obama administration to the ideological differences within the House Republican Conference.
To that end, we urge you to avoid bringing any legislation to the House Floor that could expose or highlight major schisms within the conference. Legislation such as the Internet sales tax or the FARRM Act which contains nearly $800 billion in food stamp spending, would give the press a reason to shift their attention away from the failures of the Obama administration to write another “circular firing squad” article.
Make no mistake, principled conservatives will still oppose bad policy if it comes to the floor. Rather than scheduling such legislation for consideration, we urge you to keep the attention focused squarely on the Obama administration. As the public’s trust in their government continues to erode, it is incumbent upon those of us who support a smaller, less intrusive government to lead.
Michael A. Needham
Chief Executive Officer
Heritage Action for America
View the letter here.