Conservative GOP lawmakers have taken steps to diminish the influence of the Heritage Foundation, barring the conservative think tank's employees from participating in planning meetings.
House Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise informed Heritage officials last month that they would no longer be welcome at the group's weekly gatherings, a decision that ended a decades-long working relationship, reports The National Journal
The rift between Heritage and the RSC, a group of 172 conservative lawmakers, developed over the summer after disputes arose involving the farm bill, which also included food stamp funding. Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the Heritage Foundation, reportedly wanted agriculture policy and food-stamp policy to be split into separate pieces of legislation and issued a vote alert warning Republicans to vote against the bill when it reached the House floor in June.
Sixty-two members sided with Heritage Action and helped Democrats defeat the bill, delivering a blow to House Speaker John Boehner
, who had openly supported it.
Boehner and his team eventually agreed to split the bill into two parts, allowing a farm-only bill to come to the House floor in early July. Of the 62 who voted against the first farm bill, 48 supported the second version
, and it passed.
But that vote went against the wishes of the Heritage Action, which had issued another vote alert warning that the revised bill "would make permanent farm policies — like the sugar program — that harm consumers and taxpayers alike," according to the Journal.
That vote warning triggered an "enormous discontent" among many conservative lawmakers who were tired of feeling threatened by an outside group, one Republican aide told the Journal.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney laid his anger bare in an op-ed piece he drafted for The Wall Street Journal. It never ran, however, because Heritage asked the South Carolina Republican to drop it and he obliged.
"I wanted to take them to task for their inconsistency," Mulvaney told the Journal.
But Heritage was stung on July 22 by an article in The Wall Street Journal
anyway, that said conservative lawmakers were unset with the lobbying and that the think tank had become "a handful for the GOP."
After the article appeared, Scalise moved to quell the rebellion among conservative lawmakers by barring Heritage employees from study committee meetings.
"There was a lot of mistrust in the RSC meeting room," one source told the National Journal.
It's not clear whether the farm bill tiff will result in any further separation of conservative lawmakers from Heritage. But some GOP House members have recently blasted Heritage Action
for pressuring them to back efforts to defund Obamacare.
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, the former Republican senator from South Carolina, has also recently come under fire from conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin
for his role in pushing Republican lawmakers to defund the Affordable Care Act.
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