For days, Boehner has walked a thin line in responding to questions from reporters about the tentative agreement on $33 billion in cuts, denying that there is a final deal while hinting that the agreement won’t include as many reductions as conservatives would like.
For instance, Boehner told reporters on Friday: “There is no number; there is no agreement on a number. We are going to fight for the largest spending cuts that we can get, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get it as soon as possible.”
Although strategically that sort of rhetoric makes sense for public consumption, aides said Boehner has been equally obtuse in discussing the talks with Members. During a meeting Thursday with freshmen, he repeated his argument that no final spending-cut amount is in place and will not be until agreements on all parts of the bill are reached.
Publicly, at least, rank-and-file Members deny there is frustration with GOP leaders for not sharing more details on the status of the negotiations and the specifics of a potential deal.
“I like leadership; I trust leadership,” Rep. Steven LaTourette said. While the Ohio Republican acknowledged that there have been no new details, he said that isn’t such a bad thing.
One GOP aide said Members are particularly frustrated given the fact that while Boehner may publicly insist no deal has been reached, others close to the talks are privately confirming the arrangement.
“There seem to be a number of aides ‘in the know’ confirming numbers that would be far less than ideal for a lot of House Republicans, and that confirmed-unconfirmed information is creating a sense of unease and confusion,” the aide said.
Even House leaders are being kept in the dark. While Boehner has regularly briefed his leadership team during negotiations to keep them up to date on the talks, GOP aides said he has largely kept his comments limited to his public statements.
Steel dismissed the notion that Boehner has withheld information from his colleagues. “Boehner is a pretty straightforward person. What he’s telling members of our Conference — and the American people — is the same thing he is telling President Obama” and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Steel said Friday.
Nevertheless, the amount of information that Boehner’s lieutenants do have has led to some difficult moments for Cantor and others. For instance, during a meeting with reporters last week, Cantor came under pressure to discuss whether he would support a deal based on $33 billion in cuts.
During the tense exchange, Cantor initially pushed back, insisting no such deal was confirmed. But after being told that Republican and Democratic sources were confirming a $33 billion spending-cut total, a clearly frustrated Cantor simply said: “I have not been told by both sides that. So that is what I am saying. There is a difference in my knowledge base.”