Speaker of the House John Boehner rebuffed questions about his ability to lead a notoriously fractious Republican caucus, saying an influx of freshmen had made his job more difficult.
I've never been shy about leading, Boehner, R-Ohio, said during an interview on ABC's This Week. But you know, leaders need followers, and we've got 89 brand-new members. We've got a pretty disparate caucus.
The Republican sweep of the 2010 elections gave the party the majority in the House of Representatives and propelled Boehner to the speakership, but his stormy tenure has been marked by frequent clashes with rank-and-file members who have defied his will and refused compromise.
The tension peaked during last summer's negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, when determined Tea Party-affiliated members helped to undercut attempts at deficit reduction deals that included proposals to generate more tax revenue. Democrats have taken to invoking the influence of House members supporting the Tea Party when they decry the House's apparent inability to move legislation.
After Congress was unable to pass a long-term transportation bill in March in part because of resistance from House Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., bemoaned the big, dark hole we now refer to as the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives. More recently, Democrats have had harsh words for House Republicans who are stalling the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.
Boehner acknowledged the difficulty of unifying his party, likening his troops to a certain slippery animal.
It is hard to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get a bill passed, Boehner said on This Week.
Round two of last summer's debt showdown appears to be imminent. Boehner has said he will demand another round of spending cuts when President Obama asks Congress to again raise the debt ceiling in late 2012, and the Speaker has since traded barbs with the White House and Democratic leaders.
This ought to be a clear indication to the voters of the choice that they'll have if they continue with the House Republican leadership and their Tea Party dominance, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on a Sunday morning episode of Meet the Press. This is not responsible.