Conflict is inevitable, perhaps, in a House caucus that numbers 176 members, almost three-quarters of the 240-person GOP majority.
But last week's public meltdown in relations between Republican Study Committee leadership and some of its rank and file has prompted soul-searching among both members stung by the group's attacks and partisans who are concerned its sheer size is weakening its effect.
Aides and outside activists said this week that the ugly showdown between rank-and-file members and RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) over RSC Executive Director Paul Teller's creation of an internal whip list on the debt vote has caused something of a fight over the organization's soul.
Formed in 1973, the RSC has long seen itself as the conscience of the GOP and has consistently worked to push the Republican Conference to the right. But when Teller's whip list was discovered — along with emails in which he urged outside organizations to help defeat Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) debt proposal — members targeted by the group were incensed.
During a closed-door GOP meeting, Jordan was forced to apologize for the episode, but not before members took their pound of flesh, particularly from Teller, who many Republicans privately believe is the primary cause of the RSC's aggressive activities.
Members unhappy with the RSC's willingness to throw its sharp elbows at fellow Republicans are calling for new controls on the organization.
In turn, outside activists and the core group of conservatives at its heart have their own concerns and are questioning whether it is time to return the organization to its roots as a small band of rabble-rousers that act as the GOP's "right wall" on policy fights.
"We've been reaching out to folks trying to address their concerns ... [and] started reviewing internal process and bylaws because there's various issues that folks have," an RSC aide said Wednesday.
Many Republicans came into the 112th Congress assuming the RSC would be less of a problem for leadership. Jordan is not only from Ohio, but he represents a district that borders Boehner's. He and the Speaker also spent significant time together campaigning for conservatives in the Buckeye State during the 2010 election cycle.
Additionally, while Jordan is not considered part of Boehner's inner circle, they have had a solid relationship in the past.
All of these factors led lawmakers and strategists to assume that, for once, the RSC wouldn't become a thorn in the side of leadership.
Instead, under Jordan, the RSC has been a consistent problem for leadership. Earlier this year, Jordan was able to tank a trade agreement in the eleventh hour despite strong support for the measure within leadership and the rank and file. In fact, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had already scheduled a floor vote on the bill — under suspension — because he and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) assumed the bill would have a strong bipartisan showing.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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