The Tea Party is facing a huge test in 2014 as establishment Republicans and business groups try to wrestle back control of the GOP.
Grassroots conservative groups have ruled the roost of the House GOP conference since Republicans won back the majority in 2010 but are now under attack from forces within their own party.
In December, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) repeatedly ripped into outside conservative groups over their tactics during the government shutdown fight, which he described as “ridiculous.”
Allies of Boehner, who has repeatedly struggled to lead his conference while outside groups and conservative senators vied with him for influence, feel optimistic they’ve emerged stronger from the last year.
“We are ending the year in much better position than we began it,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who works closely with Boehner.
“We ended it with a budget agreement; we ended it with a defense bill; we ended it with a farm bill in sight; we ended it with our appropriators doing what they are supposed to do,” Cole said.
The leverage point for Tea Party groups has been the GOP primaries, where they have repeatedly knocked off establishment candidates and incumbents that they view as straying too far from conservative principals.