WASHINGTON — Louisiana’s congressional House Republicans are supporting House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, despite reported rifts among the party leaders negotiating the national debt and deficit with the White House.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has been grabbing headlines over his tough talk and negotiating process. Boehner, meanwhile, as reported in the media, is attempting to be more flexible with the Obama administration.
The talks have revolved around attempts to meet Republican demands for deficit cuts at least as large as any increase in the debt limit, while opposing tax increases of any kind. President Barack Obama and the Democrats are pushing for the removal of some tax deductions to raise revenues as part of the deal.
Congress must increase the amount of debt the federal government can take on by Aug. 2 or face defaulting on some financial obligations.
The two GOP leaders met with House Republicans on Tuesday and presented a united front despite reports of conflict in national newspapers and on television, Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, said.
“It’s something that is exaggerated in the press,” said Boustany, a longtime Boehner ally. “They were both singing the same tune.”
Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden expressed frustration earlier in the week with the GOP House leaders, saying that members have not been properly informed on the secret talks with the Obama administration.
“I understand why but I think as this thing has gone on for weeks and months, reporters are asking us our position,” Fleming said. “Well, how can you answer someone when you know less than the reporter who is asking the question? It’s frustrating.”
Fleming welcomed the Republican caucus session held Tuesday. The leaders presented three proposals, Fleming said.
One option would be a deal with $1 trillion in cuts, which Fleming said is too low. Another that has been called a “grand bargain” would be worth $4 trillion in cuts while a third idea would slice the federal deficit by $1.7 trillion to $2 trillion over the next 10 years, he said.
But like his Louisiana colleagues, Fleming said tax increases that the Obama administration seeks in the proposals are not an option.
“We’re no closer to a deal today than we were three months ago,” Fleming said. “To be honest with you, it’s all been hypothetical to begin with. As it turns out, we’ve never been close at all.”
Republicans are seeking a $1 spending cut for every $3 the debt ceiling is raised, Fleming said. Obama earlier in the week praised Boehner for his work while appearing to take a shot at Cantor, who has appealed to the far-right wing of the party and at one point walked out of the talks.
“Speaker Boehner has been very sincere about trying to do something big,” Obama said at a news conference. “I think he’d like to do something big. His politics within his caucus are very difficult.”
Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, is one of the 87 GOP freshman swept into office in November with the “tea party” support that has been tagged for toughening the Republican stance in the talks.
Landry praised Boehner for his work. Boehner on Saturday pulled back support on the $4 trillion deal because of the tax proposals.
“The speaker is a fiscal conservative,” Landry said. “Maybe we’re giving him the cover he needs.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who often speaks at “tea party” meetings, also considers Boehner’s’ position representative of the party.
“Clearly the stakes in the ground, as he calls it, that Boehner put out are those that speak for most Republicans,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy acknowledged that Boehner is under pressure between the two party sides.
Both leaders are doing a good job, Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said. “They just have a different way of doing their jobs,” Alexander said.
Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said the Republican conference meeting on Tuesday showed that the two men are on the same page.
“Ultimately this decision has to be based on what is best for the American people,” Scalise said. “People want to see spending under control. Nobody is saying that we’re not taxed enough. They’re saying Washington spends too much.”