Republicans aren't interested in compromising with President Obama on major issues if they retake the House or Senate, a senior GOP lawmaker said.
"Look, the time to go along and get along is over," said Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference. "House Republicans know that. We’ve taken firm and principled stands against their big government plans throughout this Congress, and we’ve got, if the American people will send them, we’ve got a cavalry of men and women headed to Washington, D.C. that are going to stand with us."
Pence said his party wouldn't compromise on issues like spending or healthcare reform, two of the weightiest items on Congress's agenda next year, when the Republicans could control one or both chambers.
"Look, there will be no compromise on stopping runaway spending, deficits and debt. There will be no compromise on repealing Obamacare. There will be no compromise on stopping Democrats from growing government and raising taxes," Pence told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday evening. "And if I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise."
His words are meant to soothe conservatives who worry the party might be too accommodating of Obama and the Democrats in Congress.
Their fears were sparked earlier this week when retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) suggested repealing healthcare reform might not be the best approach to the issue. The "Repeal It" argument has been a rally cry for Republicans this election cycle, and several conservative candidates and incumbents backed by the Tea Party movement have signed a pledge to support repealing the healthcare law.
But the conservative grassroots movement is worried the GOP leadership hasn't embraced the pledge. After Gregg's remarks, a conservative blogger argued the senator's view "reflects that of the Senate GOP leadership, despite their protestations to the contrary."
Conservatives also pounced on a suggestion, published by a political blog, that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) had told party donors not to worry about incoming "crazier Republicans," and that the Senate GOP wouldn't seek to repeal the healthcare law. (Corker subsequently denied having said anything of that sort, and cleared the record in a subsequent post with that blog.)
The Tennessee senator went on CNBC on Friday to calm those conservatives, saying he'd vote again to repeal healthcare reform if given the opportunity, and vowed to work with Democrats to accomplish that.
"I think vulnerable Democrats who say we've got to do something, I think they're going to be willing to work with us to dismantle this piece of legislation," Corker said.
Adding to the pressure on GOP leaders not to compromise will be the incoming class of conservative candidates backed by the Tea Party movement.
"I think it's wrong to compromise your values to fit in with the social climate in Washington, D.C.," Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck told The Washington Post this week. "When it comes to spending, I'm not compromising. I don't care who, what, when or where, I'm not compromising."
Some conservatives have also wondered whether House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is likely to become Speaker if the GOP retakes the lower chamber, is their best champion. Pence has been an aggressive leader in the conservative movement and has challenged the leadership before. He was soundly beaten when he ran against Boehner for minority leader in 2006. Pence has not indicated he'll challenge Boehner again and most senior Republicans have pledged their support for the Ohio Republican.
The pressure facing Republicans isn't unique to them. The White House has also faced questions about how, if at all, it would cooperate with empowered Republicans after two years of largely relying on Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to push through legislation.
Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that compromise is "always possible." Biden was asked about the working with the GOP on extending the Bush era-tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year.
"I think we're open to speaking to the Republicans, if they really mean it, if they're talking about deficit reduction, if they're willing to move," Biden said on Bloomberg's "Political Capital with Al Hunt," in an interview to air this weekend. "I think there's a possibly.”
The Senate's second-ranking Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), suggested the GOP would try its hardest to stop elements of the Obama administration's agenda, including repealing healthcare reform, if they're able to.
"All I can say is that from my standpoint, we’re going to do our very best, and put our best foot forward," Kyl said in a separate interview with Hewitt on Thursday.
"We had 40 votes, and then 41 votes, the absolute bare minimum needed to prevent the Democrats from passing most of their agenda. And with a couple of exceptions, we succeeded. Every single Republican held tight," he said. "So we have shown that we can act together in a very strong way. And I just have to think that with greater numbers in the Senate, and potentially taking over the House, we’re just going to be in a much stronger position."
But Republicans have also been careful to rule out some of the most controversial options they would have if they win back a majority, for fear that Democrats might use the more extreme stances against them as the campaign comes to a close.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said that Republicans aren't eager to force a government shutdown over the deficit. And Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the lawmaker who would likely take over as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee if the GOP wins control of the House, ruled out an attempt to impeach Obama.
Updated 1:23 p.m.