Updated 5:17 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner’s shutdown strategy over the past few weeks may not have helped his party in the polls or extracted anything significant from Democrats, but the fight itself appears to have improved his own job security.
GOP lawmakers from across the conference say there are no coup attempts in the works and few complaints over the job Boehner did on the shutdown and debt limit fights — even if Republicans ended up taking a deal none of them were happy about.
"We fought the good fight, we just didn't win," Boehner told WLW Radio's Bill Cunningham on Wednesday afternoon.
He repeated the message to his Republican colleagues to a standing ovation later that day, telling them they would live to fight another day.
Conservatives who once plotted an end to the Ohio Republican’s speakership praised him for taking the fight this far — and pinned the blame on squishier lawmakers who they say failed to stand strong. And moderates who have been railing against the shutdown strategy from the beginning pushed the blame on Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whom they feel forced Boehner into a doomed strategy he never wanted to deploy.
“I’ve actually been really proud of Speaker Boehner the last 2 1/2 weeks,” Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho said at a monthly Conversations With Conservatives event Wednesday. “I don’t think he should be ashamed of anything that he has done.”
Labrador said he is actually more upset with his Republican colleagues than he is with Boehner.
“It’s been Republicans here who apparently always want to fight, but they want to fight the next fight that has given Speaker Boehner the inability to be successful in this fight,” Labrador said. “So if anybody should be kicked out, it probably should be Republicans, and not Speaker Boehner. ... I don’t think Speaker Boehner has anything to worry about right now.
“This is the kind of speaker that I have been looking for for the last 2 1/2 years,” he said.
Former Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan said there was “absolutely no talk” of staging a conservative mutiny.
“Absolutely no talk of anything along those lines. No talk,” the Ohio Republican said.
Jordan told CQ Roll Call Wednesday afternoon that Boehner’s standing with the conference is actually better today than it was two months ago.
“I think, over the last several weeks, we’ve been unified as a conference. I think the speaker has been leading that charge,” he said.
Tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota also said there was no threat of a revolt. “He has done an incredible job holding the caucus together through all this; he did everything he could to get a good, positive result, and I’m proud of him,” she said of Boehner.
Even Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has been coy over the past couple of weeks in speculating whether Boehner would face a conservative mutiny if he brought up a "clean" debt limit or continuing resolution, said he didn’t think there was that kind of “tension” within the conference that could challenge Boehner.
Moderates had a different take: Blame Cruz, not Boehner.
Rep. Peter T. King of New York called for Republicans to speak out against Cruz.
"I think it's important for Republican leaders around the country to speak out against him and neutralize him, otherwise he'll start to say the same nonsense again in December or January," King said of Cruz. "He's the guy that caused this, he's the guy that caused us defeat, he's the guy who was a fraud because he never had a strategy to begin with. If we were to let him do it again, it's our fault."
King said he had no criticism of Boehner and his lieutenants, who were faced with a difficult task of leading a volatile GOP conference through uncharted political terrain.
Conservative Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said Boehner had done a “phenomenal job” in dealing with the “disparate feelings and emotions and ideas and opinions over the last couple of weeks.”
Salmon said there was no “douplespeak” from the speaker.
“I think he spoke from the gut and spoke from the heart,” Salmon said. “And while people may disagree, I think that he proved himself in this process to be an honorable man, and I think that runs across the gamut — conservatives, moderates, everybody in between. I think they saw a guy that was far less motivated by political instincts and far more by his gut and his heart, and I applaud him for that.”
Boehner gave Republicans the battle they wanted on Obamacare. They came back from the August recess demanding a fight on the health care law, and while Republicans didn’t win that fight, they seem to respect Boehner for listening to the conference. The only expense seems to be the party’s standing in the polls.
But that didn't seem to faze Salmon.
“We don’t live or die by polls,” he said. “I think after all is said and done, we will live or die by the things that we get accomplished and while some of this fight is postponed, it’s not over.”
Boehner, too, said he would continue to fight.
“There is no giving up on our team, and there is no giving up in me,” he told WLW.
And he brushed off a question about Cruz, dismissing the infighting in his party.
“We’re a little bit more independent-minded than our friends across the aisle,” Boehner said.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.