Conservatives • Utah senator claims think tank replaced intellectualism with extremism.
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Washington • Reeling from the budget compromise that dinged Republicans, Sen. Orrin Hatch slammed the Heritage Foundation on Thursday, accusing the advocacy group of dancing with the extreme wing of the political spectrum to its own detriment.
"Heritage used to be the conservative organization helping Republicans, and helping conservatives and helping us to be able to have the best intellectual conservative ideas," Hatch, R-Utah, said on MSNBC's Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd. "There's a real question in the minds of many Republicans now, and I'm not just speaking for myself but for a lot of people: Is Heritage going to go so political that it really doesn't amount to anything anymore?"
Heritage, and it's political arm Heritage Action for America, has taken more of a right turn in recent years. It is now headed by former Sen. Jim DeMint, known as one of the fathers of the tea party movement.
Heritage Action was one of the biggest supporters of Sen. Mike Lee and his push to tie any budget measure to halting money for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. That approach, and the political impasse it caused, led to the first government shutdown in 17 years.
Hatch said that the 16-day government closure, which ended late Wednesday, "very badly hurt this country and this economy." He blamed groups that pushed the GOP to use the budget as leverage.
"The right is a multiplicity of various groups, some of which aren't even Republicans but who think they can control the Republican Party," Hatch said on MSNBC. Others were "good think tanks in the past, but now are losing their reputation because of some of this radicalness."
Heritage did not respond directly to Hatch's criticism, but said its reputation is based on rigorous "policy research of the utmost intellectual integrity," said Jim Weidman, director of the foundation's editorial services.
"Every passing day affirms our research on Obamacare, because everything our analysts warned would happen as a result of this bad policy is happening," Weidman said. "Americans are losing jobs, losing work hours and losing the coverage they want to keep all because of this unworkable, unaffordable program."
Heritage, he added, will continue "to seek policy solutions that will benefit all Americans, not political deals that would appease one political party or another."
Hatch said he hopes Heritage returns to its roots.
"I'm going to try to help it survive and do well," he added, "but right now, I think it's in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington D.C."