Neither Camp nor Baucus, whose panels have tax-writing authority, played a real part in those talks. Members of Camp’s committee said the chairman was privately furious and felt hung out to dry as he was forced to advocate legislation backed by just 85 of 236 Republicans.
About that time, the House and Senate appropriations committees had essentially worked out a compromise to provide full funding for agencies for 2013, but Boehner’s leadership team rejected the idea of bringing the measure to a vote for fear of angering conservatives over some agency spending levels, according to lawmakers and aides. Instead, the federal government continues under a short-term measure that expires March 27.
“You just see your work product thrown away,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs an appropriations subcommittee funding transportation.
Cole said the committee instituted its own vote-counting operation after stumbles in 2011 by the leadership’s whip team, noting that today’s hyper-politicized environment leaves leadership teams younger, more aggressive and more focused on fund-raising.
“They’re more and more disconnected from the life of an average member, and a lot of them got there without having done much at the committee level,” he said.
Boehner blames the Senate for the breakdown, failing to take up dozens of bills passed by the House. Senate leaders blame the speaker for being unwilling to reach legitimate half-a-loaf compromises for fear of inciting the rebellious far right wing of his caucus, making regular order pointless.
Some are anxious to see whether committee chairmen can get the job done this year. “I look forward to the good ol’ days,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) recently quipped.
With or without the go-ahead from above, some chairmen are pushing ahead. As senior staff tell it, some chairmen have adopted the “Nike rule”: Just do it.
At the House GOP retreat in mid-January, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Camp convinced Boehner’s leadership team to approve a short-term extension of the debt ceiling to buy time and to try to re-establish regular order.
“At this point it’s the only process that gives us hope,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), a close ally of Camp, noting how often Boehner-Obama negotiations have hit a dead end. “We certainly know the other process doesn’t work.”