Grimm and others said that lesson, and the goodwill within his Conference that Boehner built, should serve him well in the future, particularly during the debate on the debt limit. Although conservatives have strongly opposed an increase, the practical reality is that the debt ceiling will need to be raised this year or the government will risk defaulting on its loans, which is likely to have significant implications for the economy. House Republicans are widely expected to tie the debt limit increase to mandatory spending reductions over the long term.
Boehner and his leadership team will face a difficult task in selling a debt increase to their Conference, and a significant part of their pitch will be based on Boehner’s credibility with rank-and-file conservatives and their willingness to believe he cut the best deal possible with the White House and Senate Democrats.
“He brought us back a historic cut in spending. We haven’t done anything like this since we demilitarized in World War II,” Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said of Boehner. “He was up against tough odds, and I thought he did a terrific job. So his first victory made history, and I’m hoping that it will repeat itself.”
Likewise, Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price pointed to the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed to hold votes on GOP policy proposals as evidence of how hard Boehner worked.
“Those are pluses that I don’t think many of us dreamed we would be able to get,” the Georgia Republican said.
To be sure, Boehner did not secure nearly as much as some in his Conference had hoped. The deal fell $22 billion short of the House’s original $61 billion in spending cuts, which left some conservatives unhappy.
And the agreement includes no policy riders defunding Planned Parenthood or restricting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to control greenhouse gas emissions — two key issues conservatives had demanded.
Those disappointments will likely be significant in the long haul. Boehner had originally hoped to pass the final spending bill with at least 218 Republicans so Democrats would not be needed. Such a show of GOP unity was important for Boehner’s long-term strategy, aides said, because leadership believes it would reduce defections on the budget deal and the debt ceiling votes.
But it now appears unlikely he will get to that level of support when the finalized CR deal comes to the floor later this week. Following Friday night’s conference meeting, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) said, “I think there’s a significant number of no votes,” and over the weekend tea party organizations criticized the agreement. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) praised Boehner and the deal before saying that although it was good, it wasn’t good enough for him.
Boehner’s decision to freeze out his leadership team for almost the entire negotiations also ruffled some feathers, and while his strategy was successful, it remains to be seen whether that will have any lasting effects on the leadership’s ability to work together.
But for now, even those who are opposing the agreement were praising the GOP leader.