(Bloomberg) — A new battle has broken out within the war for the Republican Party featuring Eric Cantor, formerly second-in-command of the House, and the man who defeated him in a shocking primary upset last year, Rep. Dave Brat.
In a New York Times op-ed after House Speaker John Boehner announced his plans to resign, Boehner’s former deputy inveighed against “a number of voices on the right” who, Cantor said, claim Republicans can “undo the president’s agenda—with him still in office, mind you—and enact into law a conservative vision for government, without compromise.”
“The tragedy here is that these voices have not been honest with our fellow conservatives,” Cantor continued. “They have not been honest about what can be accomplished when your party controls Congress, but not the White House. As a result we missed chances to achieve important policies for the good of the country.”
Now, Brat is accusing his former opponent of “intellectual gymnastics” and said his remarks reflect “crass politics.”
“They’re upside down and make no sense at all,” Brat said on Tuesday, standing in the Speaker’s Lobby off the House floor. “The gist of his remarks is that we’re unrealistic—some members of Congress are unrealistic. For doing what? For following the agenda that he put down on paper?”
Brat was referring to the Pledge to America, a paper released by Republican leaders ahead of the 2010 election that vowed to “repeal and replace” Obamacare and “stop out-of-control spending,” among other things.
“We’re following out his own logic and his own document, and he’s calling us unrealistic for following his own document. Boy, that takes some intellectual gymnastics to get your head around that one,” the freshman said.
And therein lies the heart of the dispute between the pragmatist and ideological wings in the House: it’s about tactics, not policy.