Fractious GOP vows to unify in House minority

House Republicans say they’re ready to unify out of necessity and survival as they get ready for life in the minority.

After a fractious eight years in which conservatives repeatedly threatened and undermined their own leaders — contributing to the ouster in 2015 of Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Amash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise A cautionary tale for Justin Amash from someone who knows MORE (R-Ohio) — GOP lawmakers on both sides say it’s time to bury the hatchet and battle a common foe: ascendant House Democrats.

“If we're going to be successful at pushing back against their radical agenda, it's only going to be if we come together,” House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseDemocratic strategist on Trump tweets: 'He's feeding this fear and hate' The four Republicans who voted to condemn Trump's tweets White House abruptly cancels Trump meeting with GOP leaders MORE (R-La.) said in an interview.

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He added that while Republicans fought over different ideas for legislation while in the majority, some of those fissures are likely to fall to the side “because now I think each individual group knows their own individual idea is not going to have a likely chance of coming to the floor, whereas in the past it did.”

“You know, each group got different wins out of committees and on the floor, and the fight was always how much more were they going to be able to get that they wanted,” he said. “Now we know it’s good luck going and asking [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi to bring that bill forward. So it makes everybody realign their objectives and that’s going to be to block the really bad things Pelosi's going to try and do.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus that has often been a thorn in the side of leadership, said lawmakers he’s spoken with have said they hope to work across the aisle when they can, but need to be “ready to fight” if and when Democrats attack their party’s platform.

“If that's the case, then we have to be ready to defend ourselves, be aggressive where we can and point out the chasm in policy wherever we can,” he told The Hill. “And I think people seem to be unified around that fundamental strategy.”

A unifying gesture of sorts took place last month, when the Republican Steering Committee, a body largely controlled by Republican leadership, voted to elect Rep. Jim. Jordan (R-Ohio), a former Freedom Caucus leader, as the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Steering Committee turned aside Jordan’s bid to be ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, the post he initially sought. Still, the incoming GOP leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump slams House impeachment vote as 'most ridiculous project' House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal MORE (Calif.), worked to secure Jordan’s ranking membership on the Oversight panel, a source familiar with the proceedings said.

McCarthy worked with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-N.C.), a close ally of Jordan’s, and Meadows agreed to step aside so that Jordan could win the ranking membership position.

“McCarthy then encouraged the committee to come together, and Jordan ultimately secured the post by acclimation,” the source told The Hill. Meadows is now thought to be a contender to become President TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE’s chief of staff.

McCarthy’s work was notable since Jordan had just challenged him for leadership of the conference. McCarthy turned aside the challenge easily in a closed-door vote of conference members.

According to a source familiar with McCarthy’s thinking, the California Republican felt Jordan possessed the skill set best suited to lead Republicans on the panel and help move the conference forward.

There are a number of reasons to think it will be difficult for the disparate GOP conference to sing “Kumbaya” around the campfire.

One wildcard is President Trump, who will now seek to govern with a GOP Senate and a Democratic House. If Trump reaches across the aisle to make deals with Democrats, he’ll likely create fissures within the GOP House.

A number of GOP centrists lost reelection bids in 2018, but those who remain are demanding changes.

Lawmakers such as Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel Kinzinger GOP lawmaker decries 'send her back' chants: 'This ugliness must end' House panel advances bill to protect elections from foreign interference GOP lawmakers say Trump wrong to criticize Biden in Japan MORE (R-Ill.) have expressed frustrations that Republicans haven’t looked back and confronted the reason they lost more than 40 seats.

Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikRising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker House approves amendment to reverse transgender military ban MORE (R-N.Y.) is frustrated with the paltry number of GOP women in the House and has said she intends to get involved in GOP primaries to get more women elected. Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerGOP House campaign chair condemns 'send her back' chants The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP House asks Facebook: 'What is Libra?' MORE (R-Minn.), the incoming chairman of the House GOP’s campaign arm, said he thought that would be a bad idea.

It’s not completely clear that all Republicans are ready to let bygones be bygones, added Biggs, though he took a hopeful attitude.

“In some ways, yeah, you might still see some below surface tension, but I think for the most part people are going to try to pull the yoke together and go forward,” he said.

Rep. Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonThe 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Conservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question Democrats push for tougher oversight on student loan market MORE (R-Ohio), a Freedom Caucus member, said he was “encouraged by the tone” McCarthy set during leadership elections, but noted they have not yet seen how committees will be populated.

“There are cynics that are concerned that it’s going to be a new round of civil war in the party,” he told The Hill. “I think, you know, the leadership team will largely do their best to represent a way to bridge the party and make sure everyone's represented.”

Others joke that in the minority it shouldn’t be hard to unify since Republicans will have much less power.

“Well since everybody's irrelevant it just doesn't matter, we're all going to be irrelevant together — that's the way I look at it,” one lawmaker joked. 

More than 70 percent of the conference has never served in the minority, so it’s likely to be a learning — and frustrating — experience.

“I think the point is that we didn't run on resist — we tried to govern, we got results and we could have gotten better results if we had colleagues across the aisle that actually were trying to govern versus #resist,” Davidson said. “And unfortunately, they were rewarded for that resistance, and I guess my hope is, if we don't try to replicate that and that we do work to find solutions.”