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 BoehnerBoehner says it's Democrats' turn for a Tea Party movement House Republicans find silver lining in minority Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history 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 ScaliseConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Meadows says Mueller's end proves 'no collusion' House Dem renews call for censuring Steve King 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 McCarthyHouse leaders need to modernize Congress for the sake of America Overnight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide 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 MeadowsConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings CNN's Toobin: 'Swirl of suspicion' about more indictments not justified 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 TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller 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 KinzingerBooker, Gabbard to make appearances with Colbert The Hill's 12:30 Report: Cohen back on the hot seat The Hill's Morning Report - Citing probes, Trump says 2020 race has begun 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 StefanikThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration 13 House Republicans who bucked Trump on emergency declaration House votes to overturn Trump's emergency declaration 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 EmmerProgressive demands put new pressures on Democrats Schultz recruiting GOP insiders ahead of possible 2020 bid Elise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 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 DavidsonNew push to open banks to marijuana industry Washington must defend American crypto innovation, not crush it GOP lawmaker unveils bill soliciting private contributions to pay for border wall 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.”