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Altercation Prompts New Concerns About Bachus’ Leadership

An altercation Tuesday between House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and ranking member Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) has ignited fresh concerns within the Conference about whether Bachus can effectively manage his post.

Sources say the incident, which occurred at Tuesday’s Financial Services markup on executive compensation, prompted a discussion among House GOP leaders at their weekly Elected Leadership Council meeting. While the details were few, several GOP sources confirmed the leaders vetted Bachus’ handling of the markup and statements that it was “politically— difficult for Republicans to stand up and fight executive compensation limits.

“He continued to repeat something that was not helpful,— said one Republican Member, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Leadership became aware of that. What they are doing about it, I don’t know.—

This is not the first time GOP leaders have been unhappy with Bachus, who was on shaky ground last fall for his handling of negotiations on the Wall Street bailout package. Leaders stripped Bachus of his negotiating authority after it appeared he was too willing to strike a deal with Democrats.

Yet despite Republicans’ latest frustrations with Bachus’ leadership, Members and aides said they doubted leaders would try to oust him as the top GOP member on the committee.

Bachus said Friday he had not been approached by leadership, nor is he worried about his job security.

When asked about Bachus’ standing in the Conference, Michael Steel, spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in an e-mail Friday, “It’s a tough assignment and the leader greatly appreciates the effort Mr. Bachus and his team are putting into it.—

Tuesday’s markup involved an awkward back-and-forth between Frank and Bachus during which Frank accused the Alabama Republican of sending mixed messages. Frank accused Bachus of publicly pushing for the executive compensation hearings but privately telling Frank he didn’t really want them.

In response, Bachus said he was merely making the point that the issue of limiting executive compensation can be a difficult one for Republican Members to oppose, given its popularity with the public.

“What I said to you is, politically, it was very difficult for my Members to stand up and fight this legislation. I said politically, if I were looking at the politics. And I’ll say this again to the committee, if I were simply looking at the politics I would not recommend to my Members to stand up and fight executive compensation limits,— Bachus said at the markup.

The exchange continued for several minutes, while other Republican panel members shifted uncomfortably in their chairs.

Another GOP Member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the whole incident was troubling.

“Clearly what happened had the chairman and varying Members of the majority yielding time to our ranking member so he could tie himself further in knots,— the Member said. “It was very unfortunate and, frankly, not just off message on the issue, but off message on the policy of the issue. We proudly oppose the intrusion of the federal government into private business.—

The Member added, “This notion that this is troubling from a political standpoint is just not true.—

Bachus’ last high-profile dust-up came in September when, after a meeting with House and Senate leaders over a bailout package for Wall Street, he said he was pleased with the state of the talks and appeared ready to negotiate a deal.

Unhappy leaders quickly jumped in, saying Bachus did not have Conference negotiating power. The interference prompted Bachus to send out an e-mail, under the leadership’s header, saying, “As I made clear in the meeting this morning, I was not authorized by my colleagues to make any agreement on behalf of House Republicans.—

Then-Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) was immediately appointed as the House GOP’s negotiator, sidelining Bachus.