‘Play Like a Champion Today’

by Robert Costa

Freshman Rep. Mike Kelly (R., Pa.), a Notre Dame grad, rallied House Republicans this morning at the GOP’s closed-door conference meeting. He handed out blue-and-gold posters, telling colleagues to “Play Like a Champion Today” when the Speaker Boehner’s two-step plan comes to the floor. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), a fellow Domer, tells National Review Online that Kelly, a former Fighting Irish football player, also gave a raucous address, using rah-rah rhetoric to fire up on-the-fence conservatives. “He got up and said he comes from a small, Catholic school in the Midwest,” King says with a smile. “He said, ‘Put on your helmet, buckle your chin strap, and knock the [expletive] out of your opponent.”

“Go Irish,” King laughs. Kelly’s “Knute Rockne–style” speech, he adds, was the best moment of the meeting and helpful to Boehner as he counts noses. After Wednesday’s conference meeting, when members criticized the Republican Study Committee’s staff for pressuring conservatives, King says Boehner has seen the tides turn his way. “In politics, sometimes you get a break from the other side. It gave John a chance to grab the momentum back. There is a realization that this is the only plan on the board — either Boehner, Reid or Obama. If we vote it down, we cripple ourselves, we take ourselves out of the debate.”

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