Earlier today, House Republicans met for a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. In background conversations with National Review Online, numerous members called it “tense” and “animated,” with House Speaker John Boehner reportedly opening up the floor for comments. Echoing Rep. Allen West’s Thursday remarks, one congressman called the ensuing exchanges a “come-to-Jesus moment for the entire conference.”
High-profile conservatives such as Rep. Louie Gohmert (R., Texas) and Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) spoke, but the underlying topic of conservation was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.), a potential presidential candidate, who was alluded to by a handful of members for her media-savvy opposition to the leadership, and for, along with others, stirring public divisions within the ranks. One longtime conservative grandee of the House told me that he has never seen the conference simmer in such a fashion; that things got icy quiet when King defended Bachmann and when various members boosted Boehner, all eyeing each other before reacting.
Bachmann is said to have spoken twice, calmly defending her views and actions as principled and founded upon her desire to repeal Obamacare and tangle with the president’s agenda. Rep. Geoff Davis (R., Ky.) and Rep. Jon Runyan (R., N.J.) also reportedly spoke, urging a more united public front as the conference headed toward the budget vote. But the anger with the leadership among some on the right was palpable. “I thought [Bachmann] was too nice,” says one Republican. “The leadership, it seems, wants us to cool our opposition, to stop voicing our discontent through the media. I don’t think we will.” To be fair to Boehner, another added, the speaker mostly listened, after taking a couple minutes to explain his strategy and outlook.
By Friday afternoon, the heated conference meeting seemed to have had a positive impact on caucus relations. One GOP member said that it was “good to have fleshed everything out, to get all of that out there.” Around 2:00 p.m., when the House convened to vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, Republicans were in better spirits. Maybe it was thoughts of the upcoming two-week “district work period,” when they get to work from home. Maybe it was the makeshift parking lot outside of the Capitol, full of members’ cars waiting to jet to Reagan National Airport.
Whatever the reason, when the gavel hit and called a vote, nearly the entire House GOP lined up behind the Ryan plan. The ghosts of the spending-deal battle, and the morning bull session, were gone, if but for a moment.