“Some of the freshmen don’t have a grasp of what the facts are, and they’re going to rebel. You’d be finished,” Reps. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio) warned Boehner, according to Draper’s interviews with two of the men.
Cantor and Boehner have publicly played down their rivalry.
“We get along fine. I mean, really, we really do,” Cantor said Thursday at a Politico policy breakfast, calling it a “misplaced fascination” within the media.
Boehner’s advisers suggested that the most tense moments came in early July when few knew of the substance of Boehner and Obama’s talks. As the speaker brought Cantor into the discussions, informing other lawmakers about the policy and process, the conference was more unified and Boehner’s friends were less concerned about his standing, according to Boehner’s advisers.
Although no freshmen rebellion occurred — two-thirds of the freshmen supported Boehner’s final compromise with Obama — Labrador openly mused about expelling the speaker and every committee chairman. A sufficient number of Republicans could have threatened to back a Democrat for speaker if they did not got exactly what they wanted, as nearly happened to Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
“It only took about a dozen members to nearly unseat Newt Gingrich,” Labrador said, according to the book. Today, he said, “you could find 30 members easily.”
During the debt-ceiling fight, some freshmen were ready to push the government into default. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), a first-time politician who was a surprise winner of a South Texas district, wrote Boehner to express his fear that the debt ceiling was “very possibly a hostage that we’re unwilling to shoot.”
In an interview Friday, Farenthold said he has some regret that he eventually agreed, under pressure from local businessmen, to support the compromise, because it brought only $2.1 trillion in savings.
“I think we could have survived it,” he said Friday of a federal default.
When he agreed to support the plan, he screamed at McCarthy’s whip team and at Cantor, telling them: “You guys are killing me. You guys have got to give us some bones to throw to the tea party.”
While Ellmers came to epitomize the freshmen supportive of leadership and Labrador the anti-leadership camp, Farenthold was caught in the middle. On Friday, he said he understood the admonition to get “three yards and a cloud of dust,” a football metaphor to keep advancing the agenda.
Yet, he said, Draper’s book properly captures the freshman class’s “frustration with the capitulation” that GOP leaders often settled for with Obama. “I continue to bang my head against the wall,” Farenthold said, “because maybe we could have gotten four or five yards, not three.”