WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Republicans wrestled on Wednesday with fallout from a rebellion against Speaker John Boehner and debated whether two members of their rank and file should face retribution for opposing Boehner’s re-election to the top House job.
Having stripped two dissident lawmakers from a powerful House committee, Boehner hinted at a possible reversal, saying he was engaged in a “family conversation” about the matter with House Republican lawmakers.
“Because of some of the activities on the floor (Tuesday), two of our members were not put back on the committee immediately,” Boehner told reporters after a contentious closed-door Republican meeting.
Boehner was referring to Representatives Daniel Webster and Rich Nugent. On Tuesday, the Florida lawmakers were booted off the Rules panel, which reviews all legislation before it goes to the House floor.
Boehner said he would decide on the matter soon.
The uproar underscored deep divisions within Republican ranks at a time when Boehner had hoped to celebrate his expanded House majority and focus attention on joining forces with the new Republican majority in the Senate.
Boehner narrowly survived a challenge on Tuesday from 25 conservative Republicans in the biggest such intra-party rebellion against a speaker candidate since 1859.
Webster and Nugent were among the 25 who either voted against Boehner or merely voted “present.” Webster was nominated for the speaker’s job and received a dozen votes.
Since becoming speaker in 2011, Boehner has faced a series of internal challenges to his leadership, particularly on his handling of budget matters in which small-government Tea Party Republicans have demanded more aggressive confrontation of President Barack Obama’s agenda.
In 2013, Boehner warned against a government shutdown, but Tea Party lawmakers pushed a showdown over Obama’s healthcare law that resulted in a 16-day closure of the federal government.
A new battle looms as the House faces a deadline to pass a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Conservatives want to use that measure to challenge Obama’s executive order easing the threat of deportation against undocumented immigrants.
During Wednesday’s closed-door meeting, some Republicans were “whining about they don’t want retribution” against the rebels, said Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Boehner ally.
Other lawmakers argued Boehner should “crack down” on the dissidents, said Representative Phil Roe, a Tennessee conservative. Roe said he thought Boehner was being “very magnanimous” by reconsidering the decision against Webster and Nugent.
Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Bill Trott and Tom Brown