In July, Mother Jones' David Corn exposed a shadowy right-wing planning group who called themselves "Groundswell". Their stated goal was to wage a "30-front war" on America in order to "fundamentally change" it. To their dubious credit, they're doing their level best to either fundamentally change, or destroy it, depending on your point of view.
Monday night, Corn appeared on MSNBC's The Last Word to explain why this group is behind the extortion efforts to hold the debt ceiling hostage and shut down the government.
“It really was a groundswell,” he said, “that changed Washington from the outside in.” - Heritage Action's Jim Needham
Needham didn't use the word "groundswell" by accident. The unholy alliance of Club For Growth, Heritage Action, National Taxpayers Union, Family Research Council, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity, National Right to Life, Concerned Women for America, Citizens Against Government Waste, Eagle Forum, Americans for Tax Reform, Independent Women's Voice, American Commitment, Madison Project, Senate Conservatives Fund, Campaign for Liberty, and Virginians for Quality Healthcare is responsible for today's extortion attempts, months in the making.
On March 4, 2013, a shot across the bow from Daniel Horowitz, writing for RedState:
For many conservatives who work in politics, it’s just another day at work. If Obamacare ultimately goes through, they will still have their jobs and will still be able to put out press releases with hollow threats about the next bad piece of legislation. They want to move on. But for those of us who actually believe in what we say; for those of us who believe that Obamacare, when fully implemented, will destroy the country as we know it, this is not just another day at the office. If Obamacare is not disrupted now, while it is still unpopular and largely in the planning phase, there is nothing worth fighting for in the future. Every other policy issue, certainly as it relates to balanced budgets and entitlement reform, will become moot.
Daniel Horowitz is the policy director for the Madison Project. The Madison Project is the latest Jim and Drew Ryun project. Jim Ryun is a former Congressman who has been involved in a number of projects hatched by the Kochs. American Majority is one of their most recent.
This post is revealing in so many ways. It's not just about the Affordable Care Act anymore, but about Medicare and Social Security, which are the real targets of their hostage-taking.
This is a snippet from a planning memo from the Groundswell group sent around in March of this year. The Groundswell leaders include Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
These notes were from a meeting held ahead of the Senate vote on their budget in late March. We have Senators Cruz, Lee, Inhofe and Rand Paul introducing and pimping an amendment to delay funding Obamacare at that time. And, as the group notes, when it came to a vote all Republicans in the Senate, whether moderate or extreme, voted for it.
This was of such paramount importance that they exhort members to "keep the wave of public opinion growing. Congress needs to be reminded that Obamacare is still an important issue to the public even if they are not inclined to fight about it."
Groundswell and their allies were going to see to it that they got inclined to fight about it, and in a way that gave them maximum leverage.
On March 6th, Ted Cruz introduces his Defund Obamacare amendment. It is announced to the group by a staffer for Rep. Bridenstine's office. It wasn't at all unusual to see House and Senate staffers interacting with the group on a regular basis.
Also on March 8th, Marco Rubio joins the fight and Ginni Thomas gleefully informs the group "a rumble is brewing..."
But here is what I’ve said about this continuing resolution, you know Senator Cruz from Texas is offering this amendment to defund ObamaCare. If that gets onto the bill, in essence if they get a continuing resolution and we vote on that and we can pass it onto a bill, I will vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary, because it does something permanent and that is de-fund this health care bill, this ObamaCare bill that is going to be an absolute disaster for the American economy.
It would appear that after the Heritage Action/AFP Defund Obamacare tour, they're all perfectly willing to fight about it, but with a strategic plan in place.
On March 20, 2013, their meeting notes mention passage of the Ryan budget in the House and the Murray budget in the Senate, with an ominous note that the debt ceiling will be coming up in the future.
At the same time, they were also despondent because they were leaderless. From the March 20th memo:
There are a group of freshman and sophomore representatives in Congress who are willing and ready to stand up. There is a great deal of pressure on this group. Cong. Bridenstine is under fire every day. There needs to be a General, a real leader. No one is willing to step up and become that leader. We cannot expect those in the chambers to respond to this need without help from the grassroots. It is the grassroots who will be the ones to make a compelling case for change and new leadership. We must organize a “groundswell” and a new leader will emerge.
Like magic, Ted Cruz arose to save the day! I'm sure it's no accident that Cruz is about as grassroots as Spandex is natural material. After all, Cruz' top funders were the groups I listed earlier in this post, along with the likes of Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, among others.
They also recognized that the only way to achieve their goals was to marginalize the power of the Speaker of the House:
The Speaker holds the control in the House. He controls committees, chairmanships, meeting rooms, etc. Conservatives sell out rationalizing their compromises will position them to advance their agenda through committee work. In reality they are being bought.
Oh, the irony of that statement.
More from the same memo:
Leadership believes that Newt lost his speakership due to the government shutdown; as a result, the GOP avoids confrontations on this issue at any cost. Negotiation battles are lost before the begin because we announce our intentions and give away leverage. The arena and the rules must change.
Their twisted belief in what the nation's founders believed:
We must reorganize our problems and we must balance the budget. Our founders wanted government to be dysfunctional, making it difficult to pass laws was a built in protection. Once things are reorganized and on course it will be time to get back to being dysfunctional. Getting on course will send a message that will show America we are doing business.
This was in the context of what conservatives could do to keep pushing to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act while working toward budget austerity for all in service of their billionares. The reference to reorganizing problems points toward the group's own priorities as well as the nation's, and when they say "once things are reorganized," they're specifically talking about reordering the nation's priorities to focus on the budget, austerity, and of course, repealing the Affordable Care Act. Once those goals were met, they intended to inflict dysfunction on all of us.
They know that as long as they keep the focus on the budget and deficit, we don't need to worry about pesky little items like immigration reform, pre-K for all, or other progressive priorities.
As the House and Senate were debating the Ryan and Murray budgets respectively, they were working hard behind the scenes to maximize opportunity:
March 27, 2013:
OBAMACARE: This remains a valuable opportunity - (a) use Senate and House votes to educate constituents, (b) collect horror stories of problems, increasing premiums and (c) use hashtag or messaging – “ThanksObama!” for problems. Senator Cruz, TPP and CPR are collecting horror stories – help forward to them.
David Corn picks up the story from that point:
So at this point, Republican leaders in the Senate were going along with Cruz though hardly as enthused about the endeavor as the Texan, and Boehner was showing no interest in a scorched-earth campaign against Obamacare that would threaten a government shutdown and/or default on the nation's debt. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid maintains that at the start of September, Boehner told him that he wanted a clean budget resolution—no Obamacare strings attached—at a spending level reflecting the continuation of the automatic budget cuts that resulted from the 2011 deal that ended that summer's debt ceiling showdown. Reid was happy to oblige, realizing accepting this level of reduced spending would be a compromise from the Democrats' perspective.
Yet it would not be so simple for Boehner. For months, right-wing groups had been waging their never-ending battle against Obamacare, holding town hall meetings and airing ads, placing pressure on elected Republicans. The tea partiers in the House led by Bridenstine and others felt more emboldened than they had in March. They had no interest in a clean CR. They wanted a rematch. They had seen what Cruz did in the Senate. (They now were directly strategizing with him.) And this time they wouldn't be outmaneuvered by Boehner. They refused to go along—and essentially took over the GOP caucus. Were Boehner to defy them, he would risk his speakership or, at least, trigger chaos in his caucus that could lead to a civil war within his party. Meanwhile, Cruz became even more of a tea party superstar with his faux filibuster against Obamacare in the Senate—and this bolstered the intransigence of the Cruz-controlled group of tea partiers within the House.
When I hear that Heritage Action is now allowing the hostage to be sort-of-but-not-really released by allowing conservatives a pass on a vote to raise the debt ceiling, I can't help but wonder what this group is planning behind the scenes. The most likely scenario would be one where they pressure for a short-term budget resolution and debt ceiling raise in the name of "negotiation", where they once again come to the table and pretend to be serious, but have every intention of achieving their goals, and only their goals.
What are those goals? Rolling back every progressive reform that exists in this country, from Social Security to Medicare to Obamacare. Would that fundamentally change the country? You bet it would. Just roll us on back to the Gilded Age boys, and strike up the band.