Conservative Republicans in the House are impeding legislative progress in Congress, and Republican Rep. Tom Cole is fed up.
“They think they’ve been elected to the House of Commons, where all power is concentrated in one chamber,” said Cole, an ally of House Speaker John Boehner, who has often found himself at odds with the most conservative members of the conference. “The speaker is not the prime minister,” and, Cole added, “just being able to get something through the House doesn’t mean much.”
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Cole recalled the drama preceding a fiscal cliff deal, when House Republicans scuttled Boehner’s own “Plan B” before it could come to a vote, an outcome widely interpreted as a sign of House leadership’s lack of control over the conference.
“You can’t get people who won’t vote for Boehner’s ‘Plan B,’ and then wonder why they end up with the fiscal cliff deal they do,” Cole said.
How this battle turns out could be a leading indicator on how far right the House will be willing to shift post election.
A battle over a key leadership position has split senior House Republicans.
Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) and Tom Price (GA) will go head-to-head Wednesday afternoon as the members hold a closed-door vote to elect the next House Republican Conference Chairman, the party’s No. 4 leadership role.
Speaker John Boehner is officially neutral but privately supporting McMorris Rodgers. Paul Ryan, the returning chairman of the Budget Committee whose profile rose enormously during his vice presidential run, is asking colleagues to back Price.
McMorris Rodgers is the highest ranked woman in the House Republican conference, and a loyal leadership ally who has earned their trust as the conference’s vice-chair. A surrogate for Mitt Romney’s presidential run, she isn’t known as a hard-line ideologue but has cultivated a conservative voting record in recent years.
Price, meanwhile, is the favorite of the GOP’s conservative wing. A former chairman of the deeply conservative Republican Study Committee, he has been backed by outgoing conference chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX), who is expected to chair the Banking Committee next year.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will endorse Mitt Romney’s presidential bid Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” according to sources.
The endorsement is the first in 2012 from a sitting House Republican leader, and comes before Super Tuesday, where Cantor’s Virginia will head to the ballot box.
Cantor, who is the No. 2 House Republican and the highest ranking Jewish lawmaker, has largely stayed out of the presidential contest.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday called on House Republicans to pass a short-term deal to extend the payroll tax cut while talks continue over how to pay for a year-long cut.
In his first statement on the issue since Sunday, McConnell (R-Ky.) urged his counterparts in the House to pass an extension to prevent “any disruption the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions.”
McConnell also asked Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to appoint conferees to start negotiations with the House.
House Republicans “certainly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms,” McConnell said. “These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both.”
McConnell’s statement appears designed to give Republicans an escape route from a standoff that has become politically untenable for the GOP. He did not specify the length of the extension that the House should approve.
The Senate on Saturday passed a deal to extend the payroll tax cut for two months, which would also extend unemployment benefits and avert a cut in the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Failure to renew the payroll tax holiday would hit roughly 160 million Americans in their pocketbooks next year, costing the average worker about $1,000. Republicans have said a temporary extension would burden small business owners.
But one top House Republican suggested on CNBC Thursday that a three-month extension might work.