Picking up the pieces

House Republicans next week will hold the most important retreat in a while — certainly since Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) became Speaker two years ago.

There is much on the agenda, including the party’s policy, strategy and tactics on the debt ceiling, immigration and gun control. But the immediate goal for Boehner and his lieutenants is fostering unity within the Republican Conference.

Boehner has tried cajoling his team. He and his officer corps have also attempted to instill discipline in the rank and file by kicking four GOP lawmakers off prized committees. But it hasn’t worked.

When Boehner needed votes to pass his Plan B fiscal-cliff bill, dozens of Republican members were solid “no” votes. Boehner pulled the legislation, and his leverage with the White House, which was already weakened after the election, vanished.

Boehner was forced to eat a Senate-passed measure that conservatives in the House despised. Yet the Republican defectors on Plan B are the reason why the final bill was not more GOP-friendly.

After Plan B imploded, a weakened Boehner had to defer to the Senate. That led to fiscal-cliff law that does nothing to address the nation’s fiscal woes.

The week only got worse for Boehner as he mishandled the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, and had to retreat after getting publicly ripped to pieces by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) — not a pretty sight. The next day, GOP rebels launched a last-minute, poorly planned coup against Boehner.

The affable Ohio Republican must now reassess his conference. And GOP members must re-evaluate Boehner.

The next 90 days are an extraordinary test for him and them, and both sides are clearly frustrated.

Boehner must deal with the Obama administration’s request to pass a clean debt-ceiling hike as well as what to do with sequester cuts and the expiring continuing resolution.

The Hill recently reported that Boehner is not willing to conduct one-on-one negotiations with the president. Instead, the Republican-led House will go through regular order and pass bills on the floor. At least that’s the plan.

But to pass legislation, Boehner needs 218 votes, and he can probably count on little or no Democratic support. He assumed at least some Democrats would get behind Plan B. That was a miscalculation, and one he won’t make again.

In Williamsburg, Boehner would be wise to put the onus on his rank-and-file members. The truth is that Boehner and his conference don’t disagree on much. Their ends are the same: low taxes and lower spending. Their means to those ends have led to major disagreements.

Republicans around town are starting to worry about losing the House. Unless the GOP can get on the same page, that angst will intensify.