Hardline conservatives who have caused problems for leaders for years were not falling in line. These conservatives estimate their ranks are 30 to 40, enough to derail a vote.
That swelling Republican opposition gives Pelosi and her down-in-the-dumps House Democrats some unexpected power: the ability to rescue Boehner’s Republican Conference as Democrats have again and again in the big fights of the past three years.
If Boehner cuts that deal, it will serve as a warning that Boehner intends to do precisely as some have predicted, abandon House Conservatives next year and rely on moderates and Democrats to govern weakly, to the extent he can. That stands in stark contrast to Democrats and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi who seemed to relish shoving bills like ObamaCare down America's throat, GOP opposition be damned.
So after a big election victory this fall in which Republicans took the Senate and strengthened their grip on the House, instead of Republicans uniting around their own leadership’s plan, they are about to risk giving more control to Pelosi’s shrinking Democratic Caucus. It makes Boehner allies cringe.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been coy about where she’ll fall — she and her allies have sent signals she’ll oppose the measure — but her circle says she’s mulling over her options. It’s clearly a touchy situation for Democrats. Steny Hoyer, Pelosi’s deputy, told POLITICO in the morning he might support the measure, but later in the day, he walked back his statement.
Forget When Harry Met Sally, for those who remember it at all. Come next year, the story of the Republican controlled House may be written as When John Met Nancy, much to the dismay of Conservative Republicans who actually want to fight, for what they tell their voters they believe in.
For now, Speaker Boehner seems to be seriously contemplating turning tan and running.
But there’s a lot at stake over the next week for every Republican leader. If Boehner missteps, he could enrage conservatives whose votes he needs to remain speaker, come January. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California promised to end pointless legislative battles, and Congress is barreling headlong into yet another one. Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who is taking some credit for this package, ran a leadership campaign based on bringing conservatives on board to leadership packages. But at this point, they’re peeling off, raising some early questions about Scalise’s effectiveness.
The opposition from within House GOP ranks is easy to explain: Conservatives want to put up a tougher fight with Obama over his executive order ending the deportation threat for millions of undocumented immigrants.