Look Who's Feuding Now: A Map of GOP Infighting, August Recess Edition

Back in March, The Atlantic Wire visually mapped the dizzying number of Republican feuds, but in the four months since, and whole slew of feuds later, we needed to a new map.

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The sheer number of feuds within the Republican Party are hard to count — to the extent that The Washington Examiner's Byron York says it's impossible for the party to have a true civil war, since there aren't two clear sides. Indeed, it's more like sectarian violence, where it's hard to keep track of the shifting alliances.Back in March, The Atlantic Wire visually mapped the dizzying number of Republican feuds, but in the four months since, and whole slew of feuds later, we needed to a new map.

For one thing, now the feuds are about even bigger issues. Back then, the GOP was fighting over the sequester, using social media in the 2012 election, Hurricane Sandy aide, and whether to let a gay conservative group and an anti-Islam blogger into the Conservative Political Action Conference. Now it's more serious: foreign policy, drones, the National Security Agency's surveillance, immigration, shutting down the government over Obamacare, plus some other fun things, like Benghazi and the farm bill. Here's what GOP infighting looks like right now:

Foreign policy and national security

Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie bashed the "strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties," saying it was "dangerous." Then he recalled 9/11: "I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation." On Monday night, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul shot back. "It’s really, I think, kind of sad and cheap that he would use the cloak of 9/11 victims and say, 'I’m the only one who cares about these victims.' Hogwash."

Earlier this month, New York Rep. Peter King said he might run for president in 2016 as a response to less interventionist Republican senators. King said he wanted to counter "a lack of a real defense policy or defense debate among Republican candidates for president, focusing primarily on Rand Paul and Ted Cruz." King's fellow hawk, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has called Paul, Cruz, and Rep. Justin Amash "wacko birds" for filibustering over drones. (McCain also doesn't like Cruz's manners in the Senate.)

The wacko birds' most recent victory was Amash getting a vote on defunding the NSA's phone metadata surveillance  program. House GOP leadership didn't want the vote, and, according to The National Review, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's aides "gave what Amash thought was a more threatening overture: There’s bound to be a procedural technicality we can use to kill the amendment, they said, and we’re going to find it."

Defunding Obamacare

There's a huge fight among Republicans in Congress over whether they should shutdown the government unless President Obama agrees to defund Obamacare. Utah Sen. Mike Lee has written a letter saying he won't vote to fund the government unless Obamacare is defunded, and 11 other senators signed it: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, James Inhofe, John Thune, Mike Enzi, Deb Fischer, Chuck Grassley,David Vitter, and James Risch. A similar letter has been signed by Reps. Marlin Stutzman, Michele Bachmann, Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise, and Amash.

But Obama won't sign a law killing his signature achievement, and a shutdown would risk making the House GOP very unpopular, according to Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole. "The only way Republicans will lose the House is to shut down the government or default on the debt," Cole told Politico. "I'm not inclined to jeopardize the crown jewel... and the House of Representatives is the crown jewel in this election cycle." Sen. Tom Coburn agreed it'd help Democrats retake the House, and Sen. Richard Burr said it's "the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of." On Tuesday, Sen. Bob Corker called it a "silly effort," adding, "I don't look at that as very courageous… Most of us see through it and realize that these people are really just taking themselves out of the debate." In an editorial for FoxNews.com, Karl Rove said Republicans "must resist a game of chicken with the president."

Rush Limbaugh does not like the sound of that. "I don't think they were ever serious about repealing health care, the Republicans," he said on Monday. "[H]ave you noticed in the last, I guess week to 10 days, an increasing number of Republicans, House and Senate both, in leadership and high-ranking, are just totally caving on it?  And they want no part of Mike Lee's effort, and they're out laughing at it or making fun of it or saying it doesn't have a prayer or it's dumb or it's stupid or what have you," he said. He hinted there was something to be done: "The thing that's guiding the Republican Party today is just abject fear, and they're afraid of the wrong things. I mean, fear can be a good thing. It can be an incredible motivator." RedState editor Erick Erickson put it a little more plainly: "Defund Or Be Challenged."

Likewise, the conservative group FreedomWorks is working to use fear to push the GOP. Several Republicans who initially signed Lee's letter removed their names — Kelly Ayotte, John Boozman, John Cornyn, Mark Kirk, Roger Wicker — and FreedomWorks has highlighted their names, urging supporters to "TAKE ACTION and tell your Senators to promise that they will commit to defunding ObamaCare by signing Mike Lee's letter." (Freedomworks also said Rove was "wrong" about the midterms.) Heritage Action also wants senators to sign, saying they "ought to use the all the tools in their toolbox" to stop Obamacare.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't publicly said whether he'd endorse the tactic, but Club for Growth is urging him to sign Lee's letter. McConnell is up for reelection in 2014, and he's already got a primary challenger, Matt Bevin, who's expected to attack him from the right. The Club for Growth hasn't said who it's endorsing in the Kentucky race, spurring former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to attack the group this week: "I kind of have a standing philosophy: If the Club for Growth hates you, I like you."


Though the Republican establishment seemed to reach a consensus after the 2012 election that the party had to reach out to Latinos — Karl Rove, Fox News chief Roger Ailes, Sean Hannity, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the Republican National Committee all endorsed passing immigration reform. But while 14 Republicans voted for the Senate's immigration bill, things haven't been as easy in the House. The marquee member of the immigration Gang of Eight, Sen. Marco Rubio, says he won't even lobby House Republicans to pass the bill. Speaker John Boehner says the House won't vote on the Senate bill, instead passing an immigration overhaul in little pieces. On Friday, more than 100 Republican donors sent a letter to House Republicans pressing them to pass immigration reform, The New York Times reported.

But the House is struggling to clear an even lower bar when it comes to reaching out to Latinos: Not saying anything offensive. Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert suggested al Qaeda terrorists were trying to cross the border, having been trained to "act like Hispanic." Iowa Rep. Steve King claimed last week that for every one young undocumented immigrant who was a valedictorian, there were 100 who were drug mules. House leadership condemned the comments, but King has defended them repeatedly, dragging out the controversy. Boehner said his comments were "wrong," Eric Cantor said they were "inexcusable," Rep. Trey Gowdy said they were "reprehensible." When Gowdy was asked how theGOP could keep guys like King from saying things like that, Gowdy replied, "You can't."

Conservative media is split on the issue. The Wall Street Journal, Ailes, and Hannity all support reform, while radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Limbaugh do not.

The farm bill

House leadership suffered an embarrassing defeat when the farm bill failed in June as 62 Republicans voted against it. Majority Leader Eric Cantor reportedly scolded the Republican committee chairs who voted against the bill, including former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan.


Texas Rep. Steve Stockman has filed a discharge petition to get the full House to vote on convening a special committee to investigate Benghazi. Earlier this month, he unfurled a 60-foot-long scroll signed by 1,000 special forces veterans on the Capitol steps to petition for the select committee. But House leadership doesn't want to do that. Such a committee might create a spectacle.


Speaking of primary battles, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi — no conservative slouch, given he wants to defund Obamacare or shutdown the government and all — is being challenged from the right by Liz Cheney, former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.