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Republican Leaders Lack Spine, Tea Party Groups Say

Publication Date: 
February 13, 2014
The Washington Times
Seth McLaughlin

Professor Nate Persily comments on how Congressional representatives can be strongly influenced by their districts and less "beholden to their party." 

The Washington Times. 

Tea party leaders said Thursday they aren’t to blame for the debt limit increase that Republican leaders helped approve this week, saying the GOP’s problem isn’t divisions in the ranks but lack of spine at the top.

The split between tea party groups and Republican leaders — House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — has never appeared deeper than it does this week, after the two men provided the key support that passed a 13-month debt increase with no strings attached, delivering a major victory to Democrats.


Nate Persily, a Stanford Law School professor who specializes in redistricting, said Mr. Boehner’s inability to build a winning coalition among Republicans is a reminder of the limited power leaders now hold over their rank-and-file members. Mr. Persily said some of that can be attributed to the fact that a lot of lawmakers come from lopsided districts where appeasing right- or left-wing voters with ideological purity is more important that striking deals in Washington.

“The districting sometimes will make certain people less beholden to their party and more beholden to the voters in the district and as a result speakers are not able to whip them into line with something they disagree with,” Mr. Persily said.

“It used to be if someone was going to fear a primary challenge it would be that the party would launch it,” he said, adding that is no longer the case in part because of the flood of money that outside groups are now spending on campaigns.