As Speaker John Boehner pushes hard to solidify support among House Republicans for his deficit-reduction plan tensions within his conference appear to be running high over some of the lobbying tactics being used against the bill by the Republican Study Committee led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Those tensions prompted the RSC, a group of about 175 mostly conservative GOP members, to apologize on Wednesday.
"Earlier this week, an RSC staffer sent an inappropriate e-mail to outside groups that identified members of Congress he believed were undecided on the debt-reduction proposal offered by the speaker," committee spokesman Brian Straessle said. “This action was clearly inappropriate and was not authorized by the chairman or any other members of the staff.
“This has never been--and never will be--the way we do business at the RSC. We apologize to everyone affected, and we have already taken steps to ensure that it never happens again, either by this staffer or any other RSC staffer,” Straessle said.
Members leaving a closed-door conference meeting on Wednesday--during which the RSC’s actions were a topic of heated discussion--described Boehner as emphatically insisting that they line up behind the bill and not reject “the doable for the perfect.” Several members later said they have decided to embrace the measure, including some who previously opposed it.
“I think the odds [of passage] improve every hour,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who was among those who now say they've decided to back the Boehner plan.
Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., said that the movement in favor of the bill has been such that he would “bet my retirement check” on its passing.
During the meeting, Boehner told members that aides were still working to fix the bill after the Congressional Budget Office determined that the measure fell $150 billion short of the $1 trillion in savings that were advertised.
He told them that more cuts are being sought and that the bill remains a better path forward to addressing the August 2 deadline for raising the nation’s debt ceiling. Boehner also said that measure is still expected to be brought to the floor for a vote on Thursday. House Republicans may meet again at 9 p.m.
But the atmosphere inside the meeting was described as tense at times, with some angry words directed at one of RSC Chairman Jordan’s staffers.
“What happens in conference is a confidential matter between members,” said Andrew Whelan, a spokesman for Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the House GOP leadership chairman.
But Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., commented, “I imagine the staffers are not going to have a good day.” He explained, “A couple of RSC staffers sent e-mails out asking for outside groups to put pressure on RSC members to vote against the Boehner proposal.”
Reed said that did not sit well even with “a number of RSC members, of which I am one. I think we should take those issues amongst ourselves and debate them amongst the group.”
This article appears in the July 27, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.