The fissures that have split the House Republican Conference for months disappeared at least for one night, as rank-and-file Members united Sunday in praise of Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and his role in the debt ceiling negotiations.
The GOP leader didn’t face any criticism during an evening conference call to preview the deal for his Conference, according to sources familiar with the call. While it’s unlikely that the unity will extend to a vote on the package — some conservatives are expected to ultimately oppose it — Boehner could bask in his colleagues’ praise for one night at least, and he shared the limelight.
According to a participant, Boehner told Republicans that their leaders went “toe to toe with the Obama administration and the Democratic Senate for months on behalf of the American people. First they demanded a clean debt ceiling increase. We fought, they caved. Second, they wanted revenue to equal spending cuts. We fought, they caved.”
Boehner praised Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) “for really coming up with a lot of these cuts” during early negotiations with Vice President Joseph Biden.
Cantor returned the praise and called it “an important win for the conservative movement” that positions Republicans to defeat Obama in 2012.
“This Speaker won,” Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) said. “If you look at where the White House started and where they are now, it’s a big win.”
At least initially, the response from rank and file was equally effusive.
Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) thanked the leaders. “This was an amazing performance. I was expecting a lot worse,” he said.
Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) said, “This gives us a leg up, and I am amazed you got one for one on cuts, no violation of conservative principles, and I am amazed you got the deal that you did.”
“You scored an eagle on the 18th hole and won the U.S. Open,” Rep. Don Manzullo (Ill.) quipped, referencing Boehner’s passion for golf.
Rep. Mike Kelly (Pa.) told the Speaker to “grab a Gatorade and smoke a cigarette — you’ve earned it.”
“How about a merlot and a cigarette?” Boehner responded.