“We’ve got a lead negotiator — Speaker Boehner,” said Rep. James Lankford (Okla.), a freshman on the Budget Committee who, unlike Huelskamp and Amash, has supported the Ryan budget. “They’ve got to get this resolved at a level they’re comfortable.”
Boehner’s hand also has been hardened by Republicans losses in the November election. He held the GOP’s House majority, even as the party was unable to capture the White House and the Senate, leaving him essentially the party’s de facto standard-bearer.
And the attitude is driven in part by a growing understanding that Obama is negotiating from a position of strength in talks over how to avoid year-end spending cuts and tax increases.
The president won reelection last month arguing that taxes must go up for the wealthy as part of a deficit-reduction deal. If no deal is reached and Congress takes no action, polls show, Americans will probably blame Republicans when taxes rise for nearly everyone next month.
“The way it looks to me, the president has a full house and we have a pair of deuces and we’re trying to do the best we can,” said Farenthold, the Texas congressman.
Boehner’s support could still slip, especially if House members think he is willing to give up too much or is ready to cave too soon.
Colorado’s Gardner said, for example, that he thinks Boehner will not ask Republicans to allow tax rates to increase.
Obama has insisted that the tax rate must go up for the nation’s wealthiest households as part of any fiscal-cliff deal, and more moderate Republicans have been pushing the party to accept that as the cost of restraining entitlement spending.
“You have our leadership standing firm on tax-rate increases, which is in line with most of my colleagues,” Gardner said.
But, he added, “if they end up doing something different, they’ll look around and find a very lonely podium behind them.”
There is also an expectation that dozens of House Republicans are likely to vote against any deal Boehner brokers with Obama. Sixty-six Republicans opposed the debt-ceiling agreement in 2011, and Boehner has become accustomed to needing a mix of GOP and Democratic votes to pass major fiscal measures.
But there is a difference between voting against a bill on its way to passage and working to scuttle a compromise in its crib.
“One’s voting your conscience, and one is throwing bricks. Sometimes you’ve got to throw a brick,” Farenthold said. “But as a general rule, throwing bricks breaks things.”