A rift between Republican presidential candidates and GOP congressional leadership appears to be widening as conservatives in the base become more frustrated with decisions the leadership makes on issues ranging from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Iran nuclear deal.
Some Republican candidates like Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Scott Walker are trying to capture the grassroots support currently enjoyed by frontrunner Donald Trump by criticizing GOP leaders.
“We won the Senate. We won the House,” Gov. Jindal said, during the first debate of the lower polling candidates. “What was the point of winning those chambers if we’re not going to do anything with them?
Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are known to be at constant odds with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Cruz led an anti-nuclear Iran deal rally in front of the Capitol recently and criticized the GOP leadership for being weak on the agreement.
“Mitch McConnell and John Boehner can stop this deal if they simply enforce – if they simply enforce federal law,” he said, referring to the administration’s failure to abide by the Corker-Cardin Iran nuclear bill.
An upcoming budget showdown over the funding of Planned Parenthood could very well shutdown the government again. Former Republican Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott slammed Cruz for his tactics that Lott believes shutdown the government during the last big budget battle in 2013.
“I don’t need to be lectured by Ted Cruz or anybody else about conservatism,” Lott told reporters in the spin room after CNN’s GOP debate in Simi Valley.
Lott, a supporter of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign, took further swipes at Cruz, who is also running for the Oval Office.
“I was conservative and there before he was born. So, yeah, I’m taking a shot at him. While I may agree with him philosophically on policy, his tactics do not work. They’re unrealistic. The shutdown last time was insane. It was never going to work,” the Mississippi Republican said, noting his own frustration when he first came to the upper chamber and described himself as a ”partisan warrior.”
“All I wanted to do was blow the place up. After six months I said you know what? This ain’t working. So I learned the rules I visited personally with 60 of the senators, including a bunch of Democrats,” he said. “I learned how the place worked. I change my tactics and learned how to work the amendment process and six years later I was the majority leader.”
When asked by The Daily Caller why Republicans make promises to their grassroots voters in exchange for giving the party both chambers and later not delivering, Lott blamed President Obama. Since voters gave Republicans the House back in 2010 and later the Senate in 2014, some conservatives wonder if maintaining both chambers and taking the White House in 2016 will make difference, because the GOP will say they need 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done.
Lott replied to this scenario: “The whole time I was Majority Leader, the whole time while I also with Bush, but when Clinton was president, we got all these things done. How did we do that? First of all we had a president that worked with us. Clinton used to threaten me with vetoes and we’d sit and talk about it and work it out.”
He added, “Obama doesn’t like to work with Congress he doesn’t like to deal with Congress. The atmosphere in Congress is so different when I left when I did. It was getting so mean-spirited.”
Lott was Senate Majority Leader when the Republicans held both chambers and the White House in the early 2000s. Many conservatives wonder why Republican leadership is never as aggressive about passing legislation close to the heart of the party platform, as the Democrats are when they hold majorities in all branches.
When asked by TheDC why the GOP, for example, gave in on placing sunsets on tax relief after 10 years, Lott replied, “Well I would like to think that we comply with the constitution and the law and the rules. They don’t. We limited our tax agreements to 10 years because that’s what the budget act required. They don’t care about that. In fact, they don’t want budgets. As a matter fact, look what happened in the Senate when Democrats were in charge. They didn’t put a budget for five years.”