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Reporters' Parsing Prompts Michael Steel 'Meltdown'

Steel, interacting with the press. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The winding down of the legislative clock has everyone in the Capitol on edge — particularly partisan mouthpieces who feel the boss is being unduly grilled about end-of-session escape plans.  

According to those present for the public dressing down, leadership aide Michael Steel lost his cool Wednesday after reporters pressed his boss, Speaker John A. Boehner, about the myriad provisions tucked into the $1.1 trillion train-ticket-out-of-town that is the current appropriations bundle. The quartet of on-camera inquiries ranged from quizzing the Ohio Republican about increasing contribution limits for those who wish to privately fund party committees, to critiquing the slapdash nature of the perennially last-minute spending plans.  

“When you look at the number of agreements that had to be struck on funding levels, on riders and other provisions, there is — there is a lot in this bill. And the appropriators did, frankly, a marvelous job,” Boehner said of the catch-all proposal. “I wish it had been done last week, but it wasn’t. And so here we are. I’m proud of the work that they’ve done.”  

Quote of the year? Probably not.  

But he didn’t have to work blue to get his point across.  

Steel, on the other hand, was apparently unable to hold his tongue.  

"The way those questions were phrased was horseshit," Steel, who was still within range of the open microphones, chided the assembled hacks. He purportedly repeated the expletive a second time, just in case anyone missed the initial equine descriptor.  

When asked about it later, Steel declined to address the particulars of the unusually testy exchange.  

“I often chat with reporters after press conferences,” was how he summed up his day-to-day dealings with the Fourth Estate.  

"Steel had a bit of a meltdown," was how one witness saw it.  

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