Not only will the next few weeks determine whether the federal government closes its doors for the second time in two years, they might also determine the fate of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
With only 11 legislative days left before the end of the fiscal year, a united group of House conservatives want Boehner and GOP leaders to stand up to the Obama administration on a range of issues, most notably passing a spending bill that keeps the government open while cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The health organization has come under intense scrutiny following a series of undercover videos showing controversial practices at locations where abortions are performed.
The demands have put Boehner, who has vowed there will be no government shutdown, in a tough spot and have led to open speculation that conservatives will launch a coup to topple him if they feel he is not doing enough for their causes.
“I’ll wait to see what happens this month,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) said during a Capitol Hill panel discussion.
He and several other members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus sent a letter to Boehner on Tuesday stating they would not support any funding resolution that contained money for Planned Parenthood.
The size of the group ensures that GOP leaders would have to attract some measure of support from Democrats to keep the government running after September 30.
Labrador said that if leaders are “unwilling to stand up on” topics like the Iran nuclear deal and the funding for Planned Parenthood, “we do need new leadership.”
“There’s a distinct difference between new leadership and better leadership and I think that’s what has to be determined,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) said.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who voted against Boehner in the last two speakership elections, said the problem with GOP leadership is that it “always assumes we’re going to lose.”
For his part, Boehner is downplaying the possibility of revolt among the rank and file.
“We've got widespread support in the conference, and -- and I appreciate that,” the Ohio lawmaker told reporters after a House GOP conference meeting.
Boehner and other Republican leaders are aware of the dangers of looking like they are ignoring the conservatives. To that end, they will hold a series of “listening” sessions this week with members in the hopes of coming up with a solution to the looming spending impasse.
The power of the rank and file was on full display Wednesday afternoon, when leaders decided to delay a procedural vote to begin debate on the Iran nuclear deal.
Members want the Obama administration to share the so-called “side deals” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency to Congress before they cast their vote.
Many opponents of the agreement contend the clock on congressional consideration of the deal hasn’t started until the side bargains are turned over.
Instead of moving forward on a resolution of disapproval for the deal, the GOP conference will gather for a second time Wednesday afternoon to discuss strategy.