Tea party’s enforcer-in-chief

Rick Holmes

Who is Michael Needham? Dana Milbank calls him the government shutdown’s “enforcer-in-chief” – and a big reason why no compromise is in sight.

Needham, 31, is CEO of Heritage Action, the Heritage Foundation’s campaign operation. He sat down with a bunch of reporters this week and showed some of his hand (Salon’s account his here).

Milbank’s account, which I’ll run in Friday’s paper, says Needham made it clear there will be no budget settlement without a dismantling of Obamacare. Needham “dismissed as a ‘laughably bad idea’ a compromise that would reopen the government in exchange for a repeal of a medical device tax. He belittled as ‘insufficient’ House Republicans’ offer to keep the government running if the individual mandate were delayed.”

Needham’s comments confirm the argument Rob has been making here that what’s really happening is a takeover of the GOP by the tea party gang. Milbank:

At the moment, Needham is fighting alongside Republicans. But Heritage Action’s broader goal is to turn the GOP into a “libertarian populist” party freed from Wall Street and K Street. Slate’s John Dickerson asked whether Needham was trying to force a confrontation to induce a “massive crackup of the old order” in the GOP.

“I’m pretty optimistic that it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen pretty soon,” Needham said.

It’s too bad so much suffering and danger comes from this inter-party squabble. It’s unfortunate for our democracy that so much hidden money is calling the shots, with sitting Congress members threatened with primary challengers that will owe everything to the oligarchs who make their candidacies credible. But you have to believe at, at some point, the Wall St./K Street axis will have to fight back.  And that could be fun to watch.