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House GOP Leaders Unify on Staying Away From Washington

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Amid calls for Congress to return to Washington, House GOP leaders on Tuesday sought to reassure rank-and-file Republicans that doing so would not be productive.

In a conference call to GOP Members, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) said that the House had done what it could and that the onus was on the Senate.

“I know some of you think we should be back here cutting more spending. But the truth is that the House has acted. We passed Cut, Cap and Balance. We passed a budget. The House is not the obstacle here; the Senate is,” Boehner said, according to a participant in the call.

Boehner also said that the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction being formed under the law increasing the debt limit gives Republicans “a golden opportunity to enact more of the reforms that were in our own budget,” adding that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “will appoint people to the commission who are serious about representing our Conference and getting things done. There is a commitment to having this be an open process,” according to the participant.

Rather than focus on the debt deal or the downgrade of federal debt by Standard and Poor’s, Boehner said: “Most people are still most concerned about jobs. The spending binge in Washington is a drag on the economy. We need to continue to make this point.”

House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) agreed, according to participants, telling his colleagues: “We need to be careful how we react to the market moves, particularly with our constituents who are understandably concerned. It’s easy to fall into the trap that cable news is setting out, which creates greater fear and concern.”

Call participants added that Cantor told Republicans that when meeting with constituents “who are voicing anger, frustration and fear ... we need to try to listen and address their concerns and show that we have acted and have a handle on the situation.”

“People are worried about 401(k)s and their savings for the future, and we have to show some confidence that we will get things done,” Cantor added.

Some lawmakers insisted that Republicans should return to Washington. One participant said that at one point, Rep. Michael Burgess (Texas) argued that the House should reconvene and again hold votes on dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care reform law as a demonstration of the GOP’s seriousness.

But Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “This is the time to keep your head and be straight with the people with a clear message," according to the participant.

Participants added that Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) said, “Regardless of how the media characterizes August, we know this is it, the time for us to be talking and dealing with our constituents.”

Leadership is scheduled to hold similar conference calls with the rank and file throughout the month, a demonstration of the GOP’s wariness of appearing to not be engaged during the August recess.

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