Tea Party Class Could Test Boehner

By CQ Politics, CQ Politics - September 20, 2010

Would-be Speaker John A. Boehner asserted last week that he can manage a strongly conservative, tea-party-inspired majority next year, but potential government shutdowns and efforts to terminate earmarks are already emerging as issues that could divide his party.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most outspoken conservatives in the House, said last week that he wants Boehner and other House leaders to sign a "blood oath" that they will include a repeal of health care reform in every appropriations bill next year, even if President Barack Obama vetoes the bills and a government shutdown occurs.

"I'd like to challenge them to make that pledge," King said. "I'd like [Boehner] to make that commitment that if the president shuts down the government, there wouldn't be a repeat of 1995 where the House caved," King said.

Boehner addressed the issue last week in his weekly press conference.

"I am committed to doing everything I can do, and our team can do, to prevent Obamacare from being implemented," Boehner said. "And when I say everything, I mean, everything."

But Boehner said a government shutdown wasn't in his plans. "Our goal is to have a smaller, less costly and more accountable government here in Washington, D.C.," he said. "Our goal is not to shut down the government."

And Boehner asserted that he will be able to manage a majority that will include a number of tea-party-inspired candidates.

"Listen, I grew up in a family of 12, my dad owned a bar and, as I like to say, all of the training that I need for my job, I learned growing up. ... You grow up in a big family, you have to learn to get along with each other, you have to learn to get things done together, you need to work as a family."

Boehner added: "You work around a bar, I mopped floors, I cleaned dishes, I waited tables, I tended bar. You have to learn to deal with every character who walks in the door."

Boehner has courted the tea party movement since the spring of 2009, attending rallies and encouraging his Members to reach out to the movement. He has campaigned for many of the nominees who are expected to come to D.C. and knows them personally, allies said. And Boehner is one of the most conservative Republicans in the House, although he also maintains support from moderate Republicans who appreciate his gregarious style and willingness to listen to their concerns.

But the tea party has repeatedly rocked the GOP establishment in party primaries, from the defeat of Dede Scozzafava in New York to Rep. Mike Castle's Senate primary loss in Delaware last week.

King warned that he and other House conservatives aligned with the tea party could form a bloc threatening to take down House rules if Boehner puts bills on the floor that they consider too weak.

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