The ability for Congress to come together and avoid another government shutdown – with hours to spare – may prove to be a hollow victory as the Republican majority in both chambers is in such disarray that the surprise resignation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) may look like a tame event come mid-December.
One of the fissures was on display Tuesday night when the House GOP conference came together for a special, closed-door meeting to chart a path forward on leadership elections. Described as a “family meeting” and a “therapy session” by some who attended, the roughly two-hour get-together was supposed to help bridge the divide between mainstream Republicans and hardline conservatives who helped drive Boehner from office.
It actually resolved very little.
“Everyone was saying the right things. We have to respect each other and get along, shouldn’t call people crazy,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told reporters, referring to his description of far-right members immediately following Boehner’s announcement.
Asked if anything would change in the weeks ahead, he replied, “I have no idea.”
Rep. Charlie Dent (PA), a Boehner ally, said he his fellow Republicans must “go about setting realistic expectations about what can be achieved and what can’t be achieved. Incremental progress is progress. It shouldn’t be condemned as a sell out or capitulation,” a clear dig at conservatives who wanted a government shutdown over federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
But Rep. Raul Labrador (R-UT), a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Republicans have a lot of work to do before even considering who the next group of leaders should be. “If we’re going to have new bodies with the same old process it doesn’t matter who the person is in that position,” he said, adding election should not happen “for a couple weeks.”
On Wednesday, Boehner announced GOP leadership elections would take place October 8. The date of a full House vote for speaker will likely happen later this month.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), another Freedom Caucus co-founder, put it more bluntly.
“If anybody runs for leadership promising something and they don’t deliver it, they’re not going to be around very much longer,” he told reporters shortly before the meeting.