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Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is heading into the lame-duck session and the 113th Congress knowing full well that the road ahead is going to be bumpy. Wednesday will give an early indication of just how treacherous it will be.
The leadership election to become GOP Conference chairman might serve as the first indication of who has the heart and soul of the conference. Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington is vying for the spot against Tom Price of Georgia, the Republican Policy Committee chairman.
Although Boehner has remained neutral publicly, it has been no secret that leaders have supported McMorris Rodgers, a loyal Boehner ally and a reliable vote for leadership’s priorities. If Boehner’s preferred candidate cannot hold the line, the prospect that the speaker can sway his conference into accepting a bargain in the upcoming leadership elections might also dim.
The battle has been described by aides as one between mainstream and leadership-friendly Republicans, represented by McMorris Rodgers, and more hard-line conservatives, many of whom are members of the Republican Study Committee, which Price used to chair.
Boehner did try to avoid the fight. As Buzzfeed reported last week, he offered Price, who has at times bucked party leaders, a different spot at the leadership table if he dropped the bid and pledged to vote along with leadership for the next two years.
Price declined, and the race will likely remain neck and neck until members cast their ballots Wednesday afternoon.
New members arriving for orientation said Tuesday they had been lobbied hard for their votes.
When asked whether the camps had contacted him, Rep.-elect Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said: “Oh, boy, have they ever. They started near as I could tell courting us a little before the election with checks. I’ve known a lot of them for a long time. I was a Young Gun, part of that program, so a lot of those folks were participating and were very generous early on. Since then, of course, they’ve called, they’ve emailed, sent packets. It’s been a week of politicking, which is kind of fun. Here you come off of one campaign, you go on another.”
Cramer was leaning toward Price.
In another indication of the stakes, House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney’s running mate in his failed race against President Barack Obama, broke with Boehner on Tuesday and wrote a letter to colleagues offering his support for Price.