Johnson’s office confirmed that the congressman would attend a dinner with Luntz and Cantor.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), who attended the last dinner (“The first question was, ‘Are you going to accept the fate that falls your way? No!’ ”), said that he again planned to dine with Cantor and Jim Jordan, a conservative Ohio representative who was forced to apologize for lobbying colleagues to oppose House Speaker John A. Boehner’s debt plan. “There will be another one of those and it will be equally expressive,” he said of the dinner. (Asked whether he meant the Luntz dinner, he said, “I’m not going to spill those beans. I’m going to let you call Frank.”)
Sessions argued that despite Obama’s win, the 2009 plan was actually a rousing success. “We won the majority twice now” in the House, he said, and Republicans in that chamber had created the right climate for a competent presidential candidate to oust Obama. And he believed that Democrats will now want to work with Republicans. Obama is “not the same guy is my argument,” Sessions said. “There will be more of a reasoning and a reality check about, ‘Hmmm, what’s that L word?’ ” Pause. “Legacy.”
DeMint, who left his Senate seat for a far more lucrative perch at the Heritage Foundation, was equally insistent that conservatives had a lot to be happy about in the past four years (“The evidence is clear”) and blamed the Republican establishment for disregarding the enthusiasm and success of tea party conservatives and nominating Mitt Romney.
But he was publicly less sanguine about chances for compromise. “I don’t see anything good coming out of Washington for the next four years,” he said. Instead, he thought conservatives — not Republicans, he specified — would be better served thinking locally. “The action is pretty much, over the next four years, going to be at the state level,” he said.
Coburn likewise foresaw a “pitched battle” for the next four years, especially after what he considered the president’s deceit on spending cuts. Coburn said that while there were “plans being made behind the scenes,” this time, he said, the question should not be how do Republicans gain an advantage. “It should be, how do you solve problems.”
Still, some Republicans were looking for political advantage. “Every conservative gain will come by strategically setting up fights we can win,” Gingrich wrote in a policy proposal earlier this month. The failed presidential candidate concluded, “In the process we will set the stage for very successful elections in 2014 and 2016.”
Karen Tumulty contributed to this report