Republicans face Tea Party backlash after "fiscal cliff" vote

Conservatives are eyeing Republican primaries after their leadership pushed through the "fiscal cliff" deal

By Jillian Rayfield
January 3, 2013 8:54PM (UTC)
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Republicans are facing potential backlash from Tea Partyers for supporting the "fiscal cliff" deal, which wound up passing without the support of many of the more conservative members of the party.

Nick Carey of Reuters reports that in the Senate, Tea Party groups are eyeing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ky., Saxby Chambliss, Ga., Lindsey Graham, S.C., and Lamar Alexander, Tenn., all of whom are up for reelection in 2014.


"Many people here have watched Mitch McConnell's voting record and are dissatisfied with what they've seen," Eric Wilson, executive director of the Tea Party group the Kentucky 9/12 Project, told Reuters. "There are some potential candidates working in the background and doing the right thing."

"If a credible candidate comes forward, then Saxby Chambliss is in major trouble," said Debbie Dooley, a founder of the Atlanta Tea Party.

"I am over 90 percent certain that if there is a reliably conservative candidate in 2014 he will have my total support," Joe Dugan of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party in South Carolina also told Reuters.


In the House, the Republican caucus is starkly divided after 151 members voted against the "fiscal cliff" deal, and Boehner was forced to band together with Democrats to push it through.

From Richard Cowan of Reuters:

Paul Light, a New York University professor and a specialist on Congress, said the vote on the fiscal cliff bill could mark the start of a "major realignment" in the run-up to the 2014 congressional elections and the 2016 presidential race.

Republicans who voted for the legislation "are going to have to find a home. They're not going to find it with the Tea Party," Light said.

He said that Republicans who were uncomfortable with the Tea Party could begin aligning themselves more closely with a dwindling band of centrist Democrats.

And though John Boehner seems likely to hold on to his speakership in a vote today, he enters the new session considerably weakened -- and with possible defections from members of his party. From the Hill, four conservative Republicans are still sore at Boehner after he stripped them of their committee posts for bucking party leadership on key votes:


Boehner could also face opposition from the four Republicans punished this month for bucking leadership. Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.) and Dave Schweikert (Ariz.) were all stripped of their committee posts by the Boehner-led GOP Steering Committee, and they've been grumbling ever since.

There has been speculation that 17 Republicans could join forces and deny Boehner the majority he needs to become Speaker. House rules dictate that a lawmaker must receive a majority of the votes in order to get the Speaker's gavel. Republican lawmakers, including one who is not fond of Boehner, said no such effort is underway.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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2014 Elections Fiscal Cliff John Boehner Mitch Mcconnell Republican Primary Tea Party