There’s a new ad running on local radio, and if you’ve stumbled upon it while scanning the dial, you may have thought you were hearing things.
The commercial sounds familiar enough, what with the dramatic music and the threatening tone. The allegations are the same, too — charges that a certain politician is cozying up with President Barack Obama’s administration rather than standing on conservative principle.
It’s the ad’s target that’s head-scratching. Not Democrat Mary Landrieu, who was the subject of a slew of such attacks during her doomed re-election campaign. Not Bill Cassidy, the Republican who ended Landrieu’s career after he fended off a challenge from a tea party candidate who’d accused him of being wishy-washy.
No, the ad’s target is none other than U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the dyed-in-the-wool Republican, former head of the caucus comprising the House’s most conservative members and the new majority whip — a position he earned partly because of his credibility with the tea party wing. And no, they don’t have the wrong guy.
Silly as it sounds to anyone who knows Scalise, the 1st District congressman’s efforts to help House Speaker John Boehner pass a last-minute spending bill have landed him in the crosshairs of the purer-than-thou, Ted Cruz wing of the conservative movement. Scalise’s supposed sin? Supporting a bill that didn’t defund the Affordable Care Act and the president’s executive order on immigration but that did keep the government from shutting down.
A group calling itself Senate Conservatives Action is sponsoring the ad and similar ones against Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in their respective districts. The group’s affiliate, the Senate Conservatives Fund, spent nearly a half-million dollars on behalf of Senate candidate Rob Maness, who got 14 percent of the primary vote then quickly endorsed Cassidy against Landrieu in the runoff.
Now it’s suggesting that someone might come after Scalise the next time he runs.
“Tell him to stop cutting deals with President Obama and start fighting for us,” the announcer says, as he helpfully repeats Scalise’s office phone number. “Let him know that if he doesn’t start listening, you will work to bring him home.”
The ad appears to be part of a concerted, if tone-deaf, effort to keep Scalise in line. Also surfacing this week was a story about Maness — who’s trying to stay in the game by founding a new super PAC and who (wink, wink) just happens to reside in Scalise’s district — on a website founded by the late conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart. “The disdain for Scalise in Louisiana GOP circles couldn’t be clearer,” Breitbart.com claims, citing posturing statements by Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter denouncing Obama, not Scalise. That’s what they do, whenever they get an opportunity. So, by the way, does Scalise.
It’s one reason he gets elected easily from the highly conservative 1st District every two years — along with his more practically minded attention to local issues such as flood insurance, not to mention the value that at least some of his constituents likely see in being represented by a rising star. This, after all, is the district that almost had itself a House speaker, only to watch Bob Livingston walk away from the job before he was sworn in. And it’s one reason the showdown between the Cruz and Boehner factions feels flat-out irrelevant this far from Washington, radio ads or not.
Of course, nobody liked the spending bill, which was larded up with some unconscionable unrelated provisions, including a big giveaway to Wall Street. Shame on Congress for waiting until the last moment and leaving no room to maneuver, but sadly, that’s how it takes care of the nation’s business these days. As a member of the leadership, Scalise’s job is now to take care of business, and that’s what he did.
Scalise may well have plenty more uncomfortable moments in the new GOP-controlled Congress, when Republicans will have to balance pleasing their true believers and showing they can govern. But I’d bet it would take a lot more than a vote like this to come between him and his constituents.
Stephanie Grace can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.