Boehner downplays tension with Cantor

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) downplayed divisions between himself and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday, saying that while there have been staff “grumbles,” the two top House Republicans have not had a disagreement in the last year.

The relationship between the Speaker and his top lieutenant has been a constant source of Beltway palace intrigue, to the point where Republican House members have called on the two leaders to patch up their differences, at least in public.

Asked on Thursday if he and Cantor were more rivals than teammates, Boehner answered emphatically.

“We are teammates, and we have been teammates, and I can tell you that I don’t think there has been a disagreement between Eric and I over the course of the last year,” Boehner said at a news conference. “As you’re clearly aware there’s been a couple of staff grumbles from time to time, but that’s to be expected when you’re doing big things.”

Tensions between Boehner and Cantor came into public view last summer during the Speaker’s negotiations with President Obama over a deficit-reduction “grand bargain” and more recently over the GOP’s handling of a payroll-tax-cut extension in December.

Both leaders have consistently insisted in public that they are “on the same page,” despite reports that they have disagreed over strategy and tactics in private.

Boehner on Thursday attributed any tension between the two camps to staff members.

“Members and their staff — they’re passionate about what they do. Sometimes that leads to some disagreement,” he said, adding that he met with members of the GOP leadership team and senior staff Thursday morning. “I feel good about where we are and am happy that we’ve the team that we have.”