Speaker John Boehner is getting his first real dose of what it means to govern.
In less than 24 hours this week, the new Speaker witnessed an uprising from within his own ranks that resulted in a trio of legislative setbacks. It was an early reminder that party unity isn’t a given and that the Ohio Republican has some work to do to keep his Members in line.
He doesn’t have much time. Divisions are already surfacing over the forthcoming continuing resolution, set to come to the floor next week, which would cut federal spending by $32 billion, far less than the $100 billion that conservatives claim leaders promised during the campaign.
Boehner on Wednesday acknowledged the challenges he faces.
“We’ve been in the majority four weeks,” Boehner told reporters. “We’re not going to be perfect every day.”
Although conservative Republicans were among the defectors, GOP leaders disputed the notion that their decision to pull a trade bill from the floor late Tuesday and their failure to muster a two-thirds vote to pass an extension of the USA PATRIOT Act a few hours later signaled that they had lost control of the Conference.
“What are you talking about?” Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in response to a question about GOP unity. The Virginia Republican blamed the PATRIOT Act’s demise on the “36 Democrats who voted ... differently than they did last year” on the bill.
“It shows that they’re not serious,” he said. “I mean, c’mon, this is needed for our law enforcement folks.”
Tuesday night’s setbacks on the trade measure and the PATRIOT Act were followed Wednesday by another blow. New York Republicans — led by Rep. Peter King — helped bring down one of Cantor’s signature YouCut proposals: a bill designed to “retrieve” $178 million in funds paid to the United Nations.
Cantor has pledged to bring one YouCut bill to the floor each week to help trim the federal deficit.
Even some Republicans said the unforced errors suggest GOP leaders are still getting used to managing the floor.
“We’re in the majority now, and we’re just getting our legs under us so it’s bound to not be so smooth a road at the beginning,” Rep. Bill Shuster said. “But we’ll get our legs under us, and we’ll be moving forward.”
The Pennsylvania Republican said this week’s mishaps were instructive.
“When you’re not successful, you can learn a lot from that, and I think we will,” he said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.