Boehner counts his leadership team to lend a hand with his daily discussions on the fiscal cliff negotiations. This inner circle could help the speaker when he finally presents his scattered conference with a deal.
The same can be said for the rest of the conference, noted a GOP aide. “It depends more on the deal than the people who are at the table,” the aide said. “If you have any tax increases you are going to lose a certain percentage of our conference no matter who is in the room.”
The jurisdictions of the chairmen is an important factor. Camp handles taxes and some Medicare issues, while Upton owns most of the other entitlement programs. Ryan will eventually be tasked with crafting a budget blueprint based on whatever final deal is struck.
What the men represent as a broader part of the conference is just as important.
“It symbolizes the full package of the Republican team and it provides the speaker with a united front in negotiations with the White House,” said another GOP aide involved in the fiscal talks. “If you can get the people who are seated around that daily management meeting bought in, it should certainly have a buy-in from the conference writ large.”
Camp is known as the dependable wonk, a veteran of several high-level fiscal negotiations including the successful deal to extend the payroll tax cut he struck with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. Camp is also pushing tax reform with his gavel. Upton is a moderate and longtime member of the Tuesday Group.
“It’s pretty obvious that Mr. Ryan also provides a pretty hefty outreach to the conservative bloc of the conference,” the second aide noted.
The seven leaders showed a unified front when they all signed on to the initial Republican fiscal cliff proposal, despite the fact that the offer included $800 billion in revenue. That number drew gripes from congressional conservatives and outside groups.
They have also remained unanimously opposed to a tax rate increase on high-income earners, a key demand of the Obama administration, and have repeatedly called on the administration to come forward with entitlement cuts.
Without question, if a deal comes together that all seven can agree on, it can pass the House. But Boehner’s inclusion of the committee chairmen in the negotiating process also serves the practical purpose of keeping them invested in the outcome. “It’s not as if John Boehner is out there making a deal on his own and he brings it back to those six people and says take it or leave it,” the aide said. “When you’re the guy actually cutting the deal, you can’t walk away from your own deal.”