By Molly K. Hooper, Erik Wasson and Russell Berman - 07/27/11 06:50 PM EDT
The chairman of the Republican Study Committee on Wednesday apologized to GOP lawmakers for staff emails that urged conservative groups to lobby against Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) debt bill.
After Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) stood and apologized, one GOP lawmaker shouted, “Fire him!” in reference to the staffer, according to a Republican in the room.
The RSC chairman specifically apologized for an email that directed conservative groups to whip specific members against the Speaker’s bill.
On Wednesday, Jordan refused to repeat the assertion that Boehner’s bill did not have the votes to pass.
RSC spokesman Brian Straessle said the emails were inappropriate and unauthorized and that “steps” were being taken to ensure it does not happen again.
“Earlier this week, an RSC staffer sent an inappropriate email to outside groups that identified members of Congress he believed were undecided on the debt reduction proposal offered by the Speaker,” Straessle said in a statement.
“This action was clearly inappropriate and was not authorized by the Chairman or any other members of the staff. This has never been — and never will be — the way we do business at the RSC. We apologize to everyone affected, and we have already taken steps to ensure that it never happens again — either by this staffer or any other RSC staffer.” Straessle said the email was not sent by Paul Teller, the group’s staff director. Some members during the meeting had directed their anger at Teller, thinking he had been behind the email, according to sources at the meeting.
Conservative groups including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action have voiced opposition to Boehner’s proposal, which would raise the debt ceiling while cutting $850 billion in spending. Boehner is now re-working the proposal to add more spending cuts.
The opposition from outside groups is making it tougher for the GOP to win the 217 votes it needs to secure passage of the bill in the House. If it fails, it would greatly reduce Boehner’s leverage in talks with the Senate and White House.
Conversely, the flap with the RSC, a conservative group with more than 170 members, is seen as possibly helping win Boehner some support.
RSC member Rep. Tom Reed (N.Y.) said he was surprised by the staff activity, saying the RSC normally operates more as a discussion forum.
“I think the unusual thing about it, [is that] it was coming from within the RSC group itself,” Reed said. “Typically within the RSC group we have an open debate and we take care of our issues amongst ourselves, member to member. And to then have staff come in and try to sway that process is not really what the RSC is all about."
Members left a midday RSC meeting saying that Jordan still had full support of the group as its leader but that no group decision to fire any staffers had been taken.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said the fate of the staffers involved in the emails has been left up to Jordan to decide, and said he was not bothered personally by the activity.
During the meeting, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) read aloud one email sent by an RSC staffer that was critical of Boehner’s bill, and reminded those in the room that “it's a privilege for staffers” to attend member conference meetings.
—Correction: Paul Teller did not send the RSC email to outside groups that included a list of lawmakers to target. An earlier version of this story included incorrect information.
This story was updated at 2:50 p.m.