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Boehner’s Style Weakened Hand in Negotiations

Douglas Graham/Roll Call

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) argued that conservatives in the Conference are willing to compromise, but only to a certain extent. “If it means finding a way to reform the tax code, I think the Conference, especially the freshmen, are all for that,” Labrador said. “But if it’s just raising taxes, then that’s just not going to happen.”

There is also lingering resentment over the CR debate, House Republicans said, which has added to their unwillingness to support a negotiated settlement to the debt debate.

“It was this way during the CR fight, it’s this way now and again the other side clearly doesn’t get it,” Walsh said.

That mistrust, coupled with the fact that Boehner does not wield an iron fist like many of his predecessors, has hurt his ability to step in, take control of the situation and deliver a deal, Republicans said privately.

Boehner “is absolutely in a weaker position” because Members won’t negotiate, a moderate Republican lawmaker said Tuesday.

How Boehner moves forward remains far from certain. His leadership team has been discussing alternatives that could be pursued after the Senate defeats the Cut, Cap and Balance bill this week.

Republicans said that regardless of what Boehner does, he and his top lieutenants will have to avoid even the appearance of being divided if they are going to bring their Conference along on a deal. “No matter what the next step is, it will be crucial to have a unified leadership team standing together,” a senior aide said.

Several Republicans agreed, saying splits between Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) — who abruptly walked away from earlier debt limit talks and had expressed reservations about Boehner’s talks with President Barack Obama — compromised Boehner’s ability to manage and have opened the door for conservative agitators to push the Conference to the right.

But many Republicans are worried it will take an adverse market reaction before the rank and file have a “come to Jesus” moment and accept a negotiated settlement on the debt limit.

“As we near closer to the Aug. 2 deadline, we are closer to Armageddon. But leadership can’t sell that argument to our Conference. What has to happen is constituents will need to pressure their Members in order for the Members to believe the consequences to not raising the debt ceiling exist,” a veteran GOP aide warned.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

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