House Republicans attempted late Friday to defuse building tensions between different factions in the leadership that emerged over the last week as top lawmakers in the minority scrapped to gain inside position in anticipation of taking the majority from Democrats in the midterm elections four months from now.
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a Michigan Republican who chairs the Republican Policy Committee, told The Daily Caller Friday afternoon that he would be putting off any decision on whether to abolish his committee and its $360,000 annual salary until after the November elections.
“The leadership team agrees that any decision regarding the future of the Republican House Policy Committee must be made by next GOP Conference after November’s elections, and that we must keep working together to ensure that next GOP Conference is a House Majority,” McCotter said in a statement.
McCotter, who last week proposed abolishing the RCP to show the GOP could cut spending in its own house, said that the “elimination proposal will be viewed in the context of other reform proposals.”
“I view any past ‘rough housing’ over the issue as just water under the bridge to the next GOP majority,” McCotter said.
A McCotter aide said House leadership had huddled and made the decision to put off a vote by the full Republican conference on abolishing the RCP.
The “rough housing” mention is a reference to fueding between McCotter and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia, who publicly opposed eliminating the RCP on the grounds that Republicans need to generate policy ideas to build an agenda for a governing majority.
But some in the House GOP believed McCotter made the proposal to eliminate the RPC at the behest of House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, in order to sideline Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican and Cantor ally who heads up the Republican Study Committee. Price was thought to have designs on taking over the RPC next year.
The RPC chair plays a role in handing out committee chairmanships, the much desired posts for top lawmakers in each party.
A Price spokesman declined to comment. But Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith told The Daily Caller that the rumors were untrue and chastised those among the GOP who were fueling them.
“No decision has been made regarding the future of the Policy Committee, and no decision will be made until our Conference has a full discussion,” Smith said prior to McCotter’s announcement that he would delay his push for getting rid of the RPC.
“In the meantime, Boehner believes our entire team needs to be 100-percent focused on holding Washington Democrats accountable for their job-killing agenda,” Smith said.
Despite the damage control efforts, the incident exposed simmering tensions that have always existed between Cantor and Boehner, who have an uneasy alliance as the top two GOP lawmakers in the House. Nonetheless, Cantor has long been expected to support Boehner for House Speaker if the GOP is victorious this fall, and has said he will do so.
But Cantor was public in his opposition to McCotter’s idea.
“Eric has always believed that it is important for Republicans to produce alternatives to cut government spending, save taxpayers money, and offer a clear alternative to the agenda of Speaker Pelosi and President Obama,” said Brad Dayspring, Cantor’s spokesman. “It only makes sense for the ‘policy’ committee contribute to that effort.”
“Republicans lost their way, in part, because of a lack of accountability to the people that elect them, and the policy committee can and should play an important role in crafting the kind of reforms that Republicans stand for,” Dayspring said.
Missing from Dayspring’s comments, however, was a line in which the Cantor spokesman took a shot at McCotter. The incendiary line was read to the sometimes ornery, always interesting McCotter by a Fox News host when he appeared on the network on Thursday.
The line read to McCotter said, “It only makes sense for the policy committee contribute to that effort, even if its current chairman hasn’t thus far.”
McCotter did not reply directly to the insult, which echoes a complaint about his tenure as RPC chair made by a segment of the House GOP.
But he said Cantor was “absolutely mistaken” in his belief that RPC should remain.
“How can anybody in the Congressional Republican Caucus in the House come around and talk about making difficult choices in spending for real people if they aren’t willing to start with themselves?” McCotter said.
And then McCotter took a swipe at Cantor’s YouCut program, a recently launched effort by the minority whip to put pressure on House Democrats to cut needless spending.
“As for the whip, I would encourage him, especially when he’s got his YouCut program up there, to turn it into WeCut first,” McCotter said.
McCotter does not hold a sterling reputation as a fiscal conservative. Some conservative Republicans have complained about his vote for an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program last year, and about his use of earmarks.
Democrats were thrilled to watch the infighting on the other side.
“This is just further evidence that Republicans are focused solely on the election and on measuring the drapes, and aren’t doing anything to help the American people,” said a House Democratic leadership aide.
Ryan Rudominer, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said: “Seems the one thing that Republican Leader John Boehner and Republican Whip Eric Cantor have stopped prematurely measuring the drapes on this summer is battling each other.”