The day Cruz took Teller by Neil W. McCabe


In Washington Monday, Sen. R. Edward “Ted” Cruz (R.-Texas) poked his finger in the eye of the Republican House leaders, when he hired Paul Teller as
his deputy chief of staff.
Teller, who has a doctorate in political science from American University, has worked on the House side of the Capitol since 1993, most recently as the executive director of the Republican Study Committee.
The RSC’s chairman, Rep. Steve Scalise (R.-La.) fired Teller Dec.11 after he discovered that his executive director was leaking details of the two-year budget compromise to conservative activists.
When Scalise took over the committee in January 2013 with the new Congress, he was rumored to be an ally of Speaker of the House John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), so when the Louisiana congressman kept Teller on, it was a signal that the RSC was still the home of conservatives.
RSC’s first executive director, Edwin J. Feulner Jr., helped organize the committee in 1973 as a way of pulling the GOP more to the right, while President Richard M. Nixon was pulling the party more to the left. The RSC has more than 170 members and in the next congress will form the majority of the majority, Teller told me .
Feulner went on to found the Heritage Foundation.
“One of the mistakes leadership makes with the RSC is that they don’t use us enough as a way to protect their right flank,” he said.
“They did it a little recently, but if leadership worked more closely with the RSC members, they would find that the RSC can put pressure on Democrats or on the Senate in a way that could be very helpful,” he said.
The tension between Republican leaders and conservatives is not a new thing, but since the Second World War, it has been the GOP’s fault line. Republicans rely on conservative voters to win elections. The problem is that after winning the election and coming to Washington, Republicans start to marry-with-the-natives.
In the case of the two-year budget deal, the Democrats and Republican leaders negotiated in secret and then gave members of Congress 36 hours to read the budget before the floor vote—without an opportunity for amendments.
This is not the regular order of things. The regular order of things is to have hearings, amendments and committee votes. But, to have the regular order would have given conservatives the chance to speak up against the budget.
Just as Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, Teller, in a smaller way, was trying to let the American people know what was going on. Let’s be square: budget negotiations are not state secrets. They are the people’s business and if they cannot survive in sunlight—that is a clue that money is being wasted or stolen—or both.
It is now clear that Boehner’s war against House conservatism is his top priority—not cutting the budget as he pledged in his address upon being re-elected as speaker—the center of gravity for conservatives has shifted to the Senate.
In the Senate, three conservative GOP senators Kentucky’s Randall H. Paul, Utah’s Michael S. Lee and Cruz are the hard core around which the Capitol Hill conservatives are forming. In 2013, both Paul and Cruz took control of the Senate floor with Lee’s help to make their cases.
In the case of Paul, it was the danger of drones and the assumption by President Barack Obama of the authority to kill Americans without trial. In the case of Cruz, it was to alert Americans to the dangers of Obamacare and later Cruz led the fight to shut down the government in a desperate attempt to forestall the disaster formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Remember, the Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate supported fully-funding PPACA and also opposed the shutdown.
When Scalise fired Teller, it was to end the pretense of conservatives having a voice in the House, since their caucus is now part of leadership.
You could say the Cruz hired Teller was the other shoe dropping in the war between the GOP leaders and conservatives, but it was really about Cruz eyeing a fumble, picking up the ball and running with it.

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