After last evening's vote to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, groups on the right were already criticizing Republicans who voted for the bipartisan compromise as traitors and threatening to work against their re-election.
But longtime GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch said on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" Thursday that those groups -- particularly a surging and newly controversial Heritage Action -- were risking their credibility by attacking Republicans and fueling primary challengers.
"The right is a multiplicity of various groups, some of which aren’t even Republicans, but who think they can control the Republican Party. And some of which have been good think tanks in the past but are now losing their reputation because of some of this radicalness," Hatch said.
But the Utah Republican pointed fingers specifically at Heritage -- once an influential conservative think tank-- that's taken on an overtly political tone after former Sen. Jim DeMint, a conservative rabble rouser in the Senate, stepped down last year to become its president. Other groups, including the Club for Growth and DeMint's former PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, has also taken aim at Republicans for their vote and key voted last evening's bill.
"Heritage used to be the conservative organization helping Republicans, and helping conservatives and helping us to be able to have the best intellectual conservative ideas," said Hatch. "There’s a real question in the minds of many Republicans right now, and I’m not just speaking for myself: Is Heritage going to go so political that it really doesn’t amount to anything anymore?"
"I hope not," Hatch lamented. "I'm going to try to help it survive and do well but right now I think it’s in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington D.C."
Hatch, who himself survived a primary challenge from the right in 2012, had both empathy and praise for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in leading the deal, possibly to his own peril. With the Kentucky Republican facing both a primary and general election fight, he drew the ire of both sides by working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to finally reach a compromise after 16 days.
"McConnell is a terrific leader," said Hatch. "There’s nobody who’s been any better than McConnell. He’s good, he’s tough, he’s smart, he knows what he’s doing and I’m telling you something -- this has been tough for him."