The Last Conference

by Jonathan Strong

At the last GOP conference meeting of the two-week government shutdown, no lawmakers went to the microphones to give their take.

Instead, after Speaker John Boehner told Republicans they had “fought the good fight,” they all rose up to offer a standing ovation. “It was one of the easiest meetings we’ve ever had,” says Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.

“I think he has strengthened his position in leadership,” Representative John Fleming says about Boehner. “He hung in there with us. He’s been reluctant to go to these fights and now that we have stood up and fought for our values and he’s been there with us, leading, I think his stock has risen tremendously. He has great security as our leader and our speaker.”

The message from Boehner and majority leader Eric Cantor was unity, with warnings not to point fingers of blame.

“Everyone in this room ran on the Republican ticket,” Cantor told colleagues.

“We all agree Obamacare is an abomination. We all agree taxes are too high. We all agree spending is too high. We all agree Washington is getting in the way of job growth. We all agree we have a real debt crisis that will cripple future generations. We all agree on these fundamental conservative principles. . . . We must not confuse tactics with principles. The differences between us are dwarfed by the differences we have with the Democratic party, and we can do more for the American people united,” he told them.

Walking out of the meeting to the throng of reporters, the conservatives kept to that script, but the moderates drew their knives out for the Right.

Representative Peter King of New York urged more Republican officials to speak up about Senator Ted Cruz and “condemn him for what he did.”

Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois said the lesson of the episode was that Boehner should cut out the far-right flank and work with centrist Democrats.

Most of the top conservatives who pushed the House GOP into an Obamacare fight weren’t very introspective, offering positive words about the fight and hope for victories to come.

One conservative, however, did say he had learned a valuable lesson.

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” said Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California.