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 BoehnerLiz Cheney faces a big decision on her future NBC's Kelly O'Donnell tears up over video celebrating 25 years at network Boehner: 'I wouldn't bother' with primary challenge to Trump if I were Kasich 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 ScaliseTrump encouraged Scalise to run for governor in Louisiana: report We owe a debt of gratitude to all our police officers and their families House votes to extend flood insurance program 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 McCarthyOn The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Congressional leaders to launch budget talks with White House RNC chair on Alabama abortion bill: I would have exceptions for rape, incest 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 MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs 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 TrumpComey: Barr is 'sliming his own department' GOP Mueller critic says Flynn contacted him during special counsel probe: report Acting DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report 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 KinzingerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Alabama abortion bill revives national debate GOP lawmaker on China trade war: 'It's not great for farmers' Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill 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 StefanikHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act The GOP's commitment to electing talented women can help party retake the House 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 EmmerRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP McCarthy holds courtesy meeting with ex-Rep. Grimm Progressive demands put new pressures on Democrats 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 DavidsonBlockchain could spark renaissance economy New push to open banks to marijuana industry Washington must defend American crypto innovation, not crush it 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.”