GOP Civil War Reaches Fever Pitch

A battle between conservative groups and the Republican Party, generally viewed as a fight between Tea Party outsiders and "establishment" insiders, intensified Wednesday and Thursday after some testy remarks by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the firing of a key Republican staffer.

Boehner accused conservative groups of opposing the recent budget deal to strengthen their own organizations, rather than to help the Republican Party or the country.

On Wednesday, he said those groups were "using the American people for their own goals." And on Thursday morning he said, "It just comes to a point where some people step over the line. When you criticize something and you have no idea what you're criticizing, it undermines your credibility."

Boehner also announced on Tuesday the firing of Paul Teller, executive director of the Republican Study Committee. Teller had played a key role in bridging conservative groups with House Republicans.

On Tuesday evening, The Heritage Foundation came out against the so-called "Murray-Ryan Plan." Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America, an affiliate of The Heritage Foundation, wrote an op-ed for USA Today calling the plan "a step backward."

Republicans supporting the plan complained that the op-ed was published even before details of the plan had been released. On Fox News' "Special Report" Wednesday, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) echoed Boehner's sentiments by implying that The Heritage Foundation was using its position on the budget deal as a fundraising tool.

"What saddens me most," Price said, "is that those groups came out before the ... specifics of the agreement were even announced. They had their pens ready to go. At the bottom, many of them had the 'donate now' insignia on the thing they sent out."

On Thursday morning, a coalition of over 50 conservatives released a statement expressing outrage at the Teller firing. The Heritage Foundation announced the statement on its Facebook page with the headline, "Breaking: Conservative Movement Under Attack on Capitol Hill."

Calling Teller "one of the true heroes of the conservative movement," the statement says: "We are saddened and outraged that an organization that purports to represent conservatives in Congress would dismiss a staff member for advancing conservatism and working with conservatives outside of Congress. Given this action, and the earlier comments by the Speaker, it is clear that the conservative movement has come under attack on Capitol Hill today."

Signers of the statement include Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of Eagle Forum; Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState; Kenneth Blackwell, president of Constitutional Congress, Inc.; and Sandy Rios, vice president of Family PAC Federal. The letter notes that the signers are not signing as representatives of the organizations they are affiliated with.

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