WASHINGTON — Under pressure to make deeper spending cuts and blindsided by embarrassing floor defeats, House Republican leaders are quickly discovering the limits of control over their ideologically driven and independent-minded new majority.
For the second consecutive day, House Republicans on Wednesday lost a floor vote due to a mini-revolt, this time over a plan to demand a repayment from the United Nations. Earlier in the day, members of the party’s conservative bloc used a closed-door party meeting to push the leadership to go well beyond its plans to trim about $40 billion from domestic spending and foreign aid this year, demanding $100 billion or more.
The spending rebellion came after the House on Tuesday rejected what was expected to be a routine temporary extension of anti-terrorism Patriot Act provisions when Democrats and about two dozen conservative Republicans balked at a fast-track procedure. Republicans, still searching for their footing after assuming control in January, were also forced to pull a trade assistance bill from the floor after conservatives raised objections. They found themselves mediating other internal fights as well.
Speaker John A. Boehner conceded that the fledgling majority was encountering turbulence. “We have been in the majority four weeks,” Mr. Boehner said. “We are not going to be perfect every day.”
The image of Republican turmoil was heightened Wednesday when Representative Christopher Lee, a second-term Republican from upstate New York, resigned after a disclosure by a Web site, Gawker.com, that he had sent embarrassing photographs and misrepresented himself to a woman he contacted through Craigslist. His decision came after discussions with the leadership.
The fraying of party unity, if not of a scale or intensity that imperils Mr. Boehner’s ability to advance the main elements of his agenda, nonetheless stood in sharp contrast to the record of Republicans in remaining remarkably united against President Obama and the Democrats over the past two years. The infighting foreshadowed potential difficulties for Republicans in holding their troops together for clashes with the White House and the Democratically controlled Senate as well as their ability to corral reluctant Republicans to vote to increase the federal debt limit.
The looser party discipline reflected Mr. Boehner’s approach of allowing a more open atmosphere on the House floor and of, in his words, letting the House work its will even if events do not always unfold smoothly.
I have to be honest, if there had to be Republican-control of the House, I was happy to see much of that power come from Tea Party members less beholden to Republican leadership.
When it comes time to reauthorize NCLB Jr., these new members seem less likely to go along with the Obama blueprint for NCLB that makes the Bush education policy look like a Waldorf education.
If progressive Democrats opposed to the Obama education policies can work with enough Republicans opposed to the expansion of federal powers that Obama wants in education, maybe, just maybe, the Obama/Duncan NCLB Jr. plan can be killed.