House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says he likes his job on most days, but last Friday was a notable exception. That’s when he once again lost control of the Tea Party wing of his conference during a critical vote on keeping the Department of Homeland Security Department fully operating.
“It was just messy,” the speaker said during a Sunday appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, “and I’m not into messy.”
The affable Boehner is the master of understatement, if nothing else. However, the late-night conservative mutiny that forced him to back down once again was a major humiliation for his leadership and rekindled speculation among some lawmakers and pundits that Boehner may have trouble clinging to power.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chair of the Select Intelligence Committee, said after the vote, “A small group of phony conservative members who have no credible policy proposal and no political policy strategy to stop Obama’s lawlessness” thwarted the speaker’s effort to resolve the impasse.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY), a senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, added that the rebellious Republicans have no concept of reality and are “delusional.”
“We cannot allow such a small group to be dominating and controlling what happens in the United States Congress, especially at a time when we’re confronting terrorism and American lives are at risk.” King said today on ABC’s This Week.
Related: More Punting Ahead for House GOP on DHS Spending
Boehner today sought to tamp down speculation that he might be on his way out, adding, “I’m not going to suggest it’s easy because it’s not.”
He prefaced his remarks by blaming the latest spending crisis on what he and other Republicans described as Obama’s executive overreach by issuing new orders to protect temporarily as many as five million illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation. “We do have some members who disagree from time to time over the tactics that we decide to employ,” Boehner said of the conservative rebels. “But remember, Republicans are united in this idea that the president has far exceeded his constitutional authority –and we all want to do things to stop the president from this illegal activity.”
Asked whether his conservative nemeses had an alternate plan that stood a chance of being passed by the House and Senate and signed into law, Boehner replied, “Not that I know of.”
Barely two months after the GOP took control of Congress for the first time in nearly a decade, a relatively small group of 50 or so conservative House members are dictating vital national security policy to the rest of the Congress.
Boehner has long struggled to keep this faction in line – but has frequently failed. In the fall of 2013, many House conservatives followed the lead of Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz of Texas, forcing a 16-day partial government shutdown in a fight with the administration over funding Obamacare.
In January, Boehner struggled to win reelection as speaker when about 25 conservative members opposed him on the House floor. Many of those members are now demanding the leadership continue to use the DHS spending bill as leverage to block Obama on immigration, even after Cruz said publicly it was a losing strategy.
Friday afternoon, Boehner sent to the floor a bill that would keep DHS operating for another three weeks – while Congress and the White House try to resolve differences over the immigration executive orders amid concerns about DHS efforts to combat terror threats.
Despite 40 minutes of GOP leadership cajoling during the vote, 52 conservative Republicans joined with all but a dozen Democrats to defeat the measure. Desperate to avoid a partial shutdown of the anti-terrorism department, Boehner and his lieutenants subsequently won approval in the House and Senate for a seven-day extension of DHS funding.
So what now?
Congressional leaders are sending conflicting signals regarding how they’ll proceed to keep DHS fully operating before the temporary funding runs outs again late this week.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a note to her members Friday evening saying that passage of the seven-day funding extension would be followed this week by a vote for full funding through Sept. 30 without Republican language seeking to block Obama’s immigration orders.
However, Boehner and House Majority Whip Steve Scales (R-LA) both said today the House and Senate would convene a conference committee this week to iron out a long-term spending bill. The bill would address conservative outrage over Obama’s executive orders. Yet that is something that neither Pelosi nor Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would be willing to allow.
“Let’s go to conference and work out these differences, and finally put a check on this president that he himself said 22 different times, he doesn’t have the authority to write his own immigration policies,” the Louisiana Republican said on Fox News Sunday. “We’re going to keep fighting this battle.”
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