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For conservatives, President Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment prohibiting Republicans from engaging in internecine warfare is no longer inviolable.
What for months had been a quiet campaign to pressure the GOP into a more conservative footing has, over the course of the debt limit negotiations, blossomed into a full-blown insurrection, led by Republican Steering Committee Chairman Jim DeMint (S.C.) in the Senate and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) in the House.
And at a Wednesday Conference meeting, the conflict was exposed raw, as Republicans dressed down Jordan for his tactics.
According to aides familiar with the situation, Paul Teller, the RSC’s executive director, and top DeMint aides, including Communications Director Wesley Denton, have worked closely for years in coordinating their work.
DeMint has led efforts to coordinate with the House Republican Study Committee.
“We’ve worked a lot with the House guys,” DeMint said, particularly with regard to raising the debt ceiling. “I think a lot of the [conservative] folks feel like the plans that are being presented are more political than they are solving our debt problem.”
To a large degree, the cooperation makes sense: The RSC and the Steering Committee act as the conservative caucuses for their respective chambers, and the groups view themselves as the “conscience” of the GOP.
“A lot of us are frustrated that a few people go behind closed doors and try to make all of the decisions. I am not sure that is going to work, because it’s not just us, but I think it is a whole lot of people around the country feel left out of the process. We try to be their voice here,” DeMint said, adding, “I think we’ve created our own table. I am not sure we have a seat at the table as much as we have another table.”
Since the November elections, which for the first time gave DeMint a natural base of four to six GOP conservatives in the Senate and swelled the ranks of the RSC in the House, both organizations have grown increasingly bold.
And as the debt fight heated up, Teller, Denton and activists formed a listserv to trade information, discuss strategy and map out how they would attack Democrats and Republicans.
The list included RSC and Steering Committee aides, aides to other Republican lawmakers in both chambers and a number of conservative activists and groups, including redstate.com blogger Erick Erickson, the Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition, Heritage Action for America and others.