The Corner

House Conservatives Revolt

In a few minutes, House Republicans will meet in the Capitol’s basement. The chief topic of conversation: the emerging Senate deal. But before the meeting even begins, House conservatives are bashing it behind the scenes, and they’re pushing leadership to reject the compromise. A flurry of phone calls and meetings last night and early this morning led to that consensus among the approximately 50 Republicans who form the House GOP’s right flank. They’re furious with Senate Republicans for working with Democrats to craft what one leading tea-party congressman calls a “mushy piece of s**t.” Another House conservative warns, “If Boehner backs this, as is, he’s in trouble.”

But that’s unlikely to happen. As of 8:30 a.m., House conservatives believe GOP leadership is well aware of their unhappiness, and they expect Boehner to talk up the House’s next move: another volley to the Senate, which would extend the debt ceiling, reopen the government, and set up a budget conference, plus request conservative demands that go beyond the Senate’s outline.

“What they’ll come up with in the Senate will not get the support of most House Republicans,” predicts a House conservative strategist. “And thus, after a lot of hand-wringing, it’ll be DOA. Just like with BCA in 2011, the most important question is, what can pass the House?  Everything else is subordinate to that. So, while the Senate is taking the lead right now, I expect the focus will soon shift back to the House, and back to the idea of doing a six-week extension of the debt ceiling.  While Obama and Reid won’t like it, they don’t want to go past October 17, either. The politics of the debt ceiling are different from the shutdown. And so, we feel they’ll reluctantly accept it as a stopgap measure.”

“How can folks be satisfied with income verification being put into place?” asks a top House conservative aide. “That was already law of the land, and the administration just chose to delay it. Just another thing that I think McConnell can be dinged on. I just don’t see how there can be widespread support for this in the conference in the House, and I am amazed at how much bad blood has developed between House and Senate Republicans the past few days.”

Senate conservatives, for their part, are also skeptical, and at least a handful of them are planning to complain to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell this morning when Senate Republicans meet. Senators Lee, Cruz, and their allies aren’t expected to back it. “Things are still fluid,” explains a Senate Republican aide. “The initial buzz wasn’t great. It was seen as a really small step forward, like a free Coke and pack of crackers. Nice, but nothing to write home about.”

“The larger problem, particularly as we go forward for House members, is a free Coke and crackers aren’t going to cut it with Cruz, Heritage, FreedomWorks, and the Senate Conservatives Fund,” the aide adds. “They have been selling the idea they know the winning Powerball numbers and we are about to hit the jackpot. Expectations of what is achievable and what we can get out of this remain way out of whack . . . Keep in mind the activists are still calling offices pushing for the full defund of Obamacare. The message has not been relayed to the grassroots that the defund option isn’t going to happen no matter how long we hold our breath or how much we wish it would happen.”

Robert Costa was formerly the Washington editor for National Review.

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