Four days after Speaker John Boehner said he was quitting, House Republicans gathered for a family “therapy session” Tuesday night to try to talk through some of the underlying problems that forced the Ohio Republican out in the first place.
The members-only gathering in a room in the Capitol’s basement came amid an all-out scramble by candidates running for Speaker and other possible vacancies on the leadership team.
“The point of this meeting was for members to take a step back and have the people running for leadership positions listen to what the membership has to say about the direction of our conference,” Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) told The Hill.
“Members got an opportunity to communicate what has transpired in the past that has been faulty in the conference,” he added, “and what we can do to move forward in a more cohesive, strong and positive way.”
Added freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.): “This was a good therapy session for our conference.”
None of the leadership candidates spoke, according to lawmakers in the room. The Speaker didn’t attend the hours-long meeting, since it focused on how the 247-member GOP conference would move forward in a post-Boehner world. But the other GOP leaders were on hand.
While many said the meeting was worthwhile — describing the discussion as civil and courteous — others said it was a waste of time.
“I have no f--king idea” what the point was, said one senior GOP lawmaker.
One lawmaker did float a proposal that GOP leaders running for a different leadership post would have to resign from their current job. But the conference didn’t vote on any proposals Tuesday night.
No date was set for next month’s leadership elections. Lawmakers were asked not to bring their smartphones in the meeting to prevent them from tweeting, texting or emailing (though a few phones rang).
The closed-door gathering was precipitated by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who’s been flirting with a leadership bid and over the weekend called on leadership to quickly hold a special conference meeting to address the GOP infighting between conservatives and moderates in the conference.
“It was a high-road discussion. I was very impressed with the caliber of the discussion, the tone of the members, their disposition and their attitude. And I was very encouraged,” Roskam said.
But he acknowledged a mere two-hour conference meeting wouldn’t solve the deep divisions among House Republicans.
“Two hours is not gonna get everything cleared. But it was a good, productive two hours,” Roskam said.
At one point, Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyGowdy: FBI barely probed Clinton about intent on emails GOP chairmen subpoena tech firms tied to Clinton's email server GOP preps tough perjury case against Clinton MORE (R-S.C.) stood up in the room to address chatter he might launch a surprise bid for Speaker or majority leader. He told colleagues he wasn’t running and instead is focused on leading the committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
“When I’m done with that, I’m going to return to South Carolina where my heart is,” Gowdy told his colleagues, according to a source in the room.