Speaker urges party to back Senate deal

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) urged House Republicans on Wednesday to support a bipartisan Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling despite a lack of concessions from Democrats.

“We fought the good fight,” Boehner told his colleagues in a private meeting Wednesday afternoon, according to people in the room. “We’ll live to fight another day.”

House Republicans gave Boehner a standing ovation, according to Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).

The Speaker, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) each told lawmakers they would personally vote for the bill when it comes to the House floor late Wednesday night. The agreement is expected to pass with significant Democratic support.

The bill provides government funding through Jan. 15 and increases the debt ceiling through Feb. 7. While Republicans had demanded for months that a funding or debt-ceiling bill delay or defund President Obama’s healthcare law, the final agreement leaves the program virtually untouched.

The two-week government shutdown has left Republicans deeply divided over their legislative strategy, with centrist members voicing anger at conservatives who, they say, led the party into a political abyss.

Cantor delivered what Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said was the “most passionate” speech he had heard the majority leader give in five years, urging unity among a conference that fought bitterly over tactics in the last month.

“We must not confuse tactics with principles,” Cantor said, according to a person in the room. “The differences between us are dwarfed by the differences we have with the Democratic Party, and we can do more for the American people united.”

Exiting the meeting, Schock sharply criticized the conference’s conservative flank, saying it had “become clear that there are certain members who will not be a constructive member of the team.”
Schock added that he hoped GOP leadership had learned that lesson and would be more willing to reach across the aisle to Democrats in future fiscal negotiations.

He had a message for conservative hardliners.

“At the end of the day, if they’re not going to be with you, then let’s not wait until the end of the day,” Schock said. “Let’s start at the beginning of the day, and say, ‘Who wants to be part of a constructive majority?’ ”

Boehner’s message in the brief meeting, which lasted just 15 minutes, echoed one he delivered earlier Wednesday afternoon in a radio interview.

“We just didn’t win,” Boehner told host Bill Cunningham on Cincinnati radio station 700WLW.

In a separate statement, the Speaker said the House would continue with a strategy of “smart, targeted strikes” against ObamaCare.

“The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country's debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare,” Boehner said. “That fight will continue.”

In the meeting, he urged the conference to try to concentrate on things that unite Republicans such as lower taxes, smaller government and less regulation, rather than the painful divisions on tactics that have been on public display.

“I think it's important for our conference to take the moment as suggested by the Speaker, take the moment to recognize that while we are divided on certain tactical procedures we are united in a lot of ways,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said.

“Leadership obviously wants a 'yes' vote and that’s understandable. So I’m there,” Womack said. “It’s not what we want, it’s not what any of us wanted. We put up a very good fight…we were just in pursuit of an endgame that just wasn’t possible.”

Rebecca Shabad contributed.