‘Everyone in That Room Loves’ Speaker Boehner

by Robert Costa

“I’m doing great.” So said Speaker John Boehner as he left this afternoon’s GOP conference meeting. He was all smiles, for good reason: Numerous House Republicans appear to be supportive of the debt-limit deal and of Boehner’s leadership, just days after his speakership was potentially in peril during a tense vote for his revised debt-ceiling plan. “I’m pretty amazed that he got the deal he got,” says Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the Budget Committee chairman.

“We are going to be okay,” says Rep. Allen West (R., Fla.), a tea-party star who supports the deal. He denies that Boehner is in trouble with conservatives. “No, he is not,” West says. “The president is in trouble — the president surrendered.”

Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.) admits to being disappointed with the final deal, “to a degree.” Still, he says, conservatives should not be throwing a tantrum. “We fought a fight as hard as we could fight,” he says. “This thing will probably pass today. I am not going to vote for it. But look at how the world has changed.” In that, he says, “I take heart.”

Looking at the big picture, Walsh adds, “this is clearly a win for all these troublesome conservative Republicans who came here to change the world.” Boehner, he notes, retains his popularity behind closed doors. “Everyone in that room loves him,” he says.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) confirmed the love-fest. “In fact, I stood up at the end and said, I could not be more proud of how our leadership has handled this,” he says. “Even to those of us who oppose the bill, he has been exceptionally good. I am a bigger supporter of John Boehner now than I’ve ever been.”

“[Boehner] has the capacity to keep a very diverse conference together,” says Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), a former Republican Study Committee chairman. Though there are concerns about the deal’s balanced-budget amendment process and defense-spending changes, Price says Boehner took care to address both fronts this afternoon.

Over on the Democratic side, things remain fluid. Leader Pelosi appears reluctanct to support the deal. To help enthuse Hill liberals, Vice President Biden spoke to to Senate and House Democrats. He was joined by Jack Lew, the White House budget director. Leaving the Capitol, Lew was optimistic. “We had good discussions, like we always do,” he says. “I am certainly hopeful that it will pass before we meet the deadline.”