Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) says he expects House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and the rest of GOP leadership to publicly denounce criticism of House conservatives pushing for deeper spending cuts.
Pence, a former member of leadership, put pressure on Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and the rest of the leadership team to silence criticism by more veteran, centrist Republicans of the group of House conservatives who have demanded deeper spending cuts than what has been proposed in bills brought to the floor.
"Look, I have no doubt that Speaker John Boehner and Republican Leader Eric Cantor and the rest of our leadership will privately, and if needs be, publicly denounce any effort to essentially bad mouth the intentions of Republicans that are simply fighting for fiscal responsibility," Pence said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.
Pence's comment comes within the context of a fight over whether GOP leadership should give political cover to House conservatives, especially the Tea Party freshmen, who have clashed with establishment Republican lawmakers. Pence's representatives contend that the Indiana lawmaker was conveying his belief that Boehner and Cantor disagree with any staff assessment of a rift.
The internal divide among Republicans spilled into the open earlier this week in a House vote over a measure to fund the government for an additional three weeks, while cutting $6 billion from the budget. Fifty-four conservatives broke ranks with fellow Republicans to oppose the measure, reasoning that the cuts are too shallow, and that the short-term continuing resolutions will lead to an unsatisfying compromise.
The rift pits more veteran Republicans, who essentially recognize that there is a tactical limit to how much spending that can be cut (especially with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House), against the insurgent conservatives, who are hankering for a fight over spending, even if it leads to a politically risky government shutdown.
Republicans who favor the current strategy point out that the number of GOP freshmen who broke with leadership on the vote for the short-term spending measure is proportional to the full Republican conference.
The murmurs of frustration spilled over on Wednesday evening into an article in the Daily Caller, the conservative news website, to which Pence responded on Thursday.
"I’ve been on Capitol Hill for 10 years, and I found out a long time ago a lot of the times these anonymous aides, if they can’t beat your arguments, they just beat on you. And that’s all right. I’m a big boy. I can take it," Pence said. "The suggestion that people like Jeff Flake and Mike Pence are taking a stand for fiscal responsibility for political reasons, when we’re been taking these stands for a decade, you know, I mean, I opposed the Medicare prescription drug bill back in 2005, I opposed No Child Left Behind. You know, I’ve been taking a stand for fiscal responsibility and limited government for the last 10 years."
Updated at 11:43 a.m. and 8:09 p.m.