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GOP losing powerful allies in hostage crises

Charles and David Koch
Charles and David KochAssociated Press

The relationship between congressional Republicans and the allied groups that often drive the GOP's agenda has officially gotten weird.

For months, Republican leaders on the Hill were concerned about prudence when major decisions had to be made. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made clear, publicly and privately, that he didn't want to shut down the government or force a debt-ceiling crisis, especially over the Affordable Care Act, which Boehner was prepared to accept as the "law of the land."

This was deemed unacceptable on the right, and the conservative movement's leading outfits dragged Republican officials to the far-right cliff, telling them they had no choice.

It's therefore amusing to see some of these far-right powerhouses suddenly move back towards the center, and reluctant GOP leaders move to their right.

For example, the Koch brothers' company sent a letter to Congress this morning, making clear that Koch Industries is not on board with the idea of tying the Affordable Care Act to the government shutdown. Around the same time, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham told reporters he wants to defund "Obamacare," but he doesn't want this to be tied to the debt ceiling.

Under questioning at a breakfast with reporters, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Needham, a product of the Stanford Business School, conceded that failure to raise the debt ceiling would indeed disrupt the global economy.

"I'm sure the markets will react negatively," he said, even if, as he suggested was possible, the Treasury could "prioritize" interest payments to foreign bondholders.... "No, we should raise the debt limit," he said, though he added that he would oppose an increase that extends until after the 2014 election, which is Obama's preferred outcome.

Soon after, FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe told the Huffington Post that he, too, believes Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling.


It's worth remembering that far-right groups like these receive quite a bit of money from corporate allies and very wealthy benefactors, who (a) understand the consequences of default better than many congressional Republicans; and (b) don't want to lose an enormous chunk of their wealth as part of a feeble attempt to undermine a moderate health care law.

Many GOP lawmakers are reportedly worried about primary challenges, facing rivals financed by groups like Heritage and FreedomWorks. On the debt ceiling, it appears these Republican members can do the right thing without fear of blowback from these far-right powerhouses.