GOP Infighting Update: Cantor Could Lead Rebellion Against Boehner

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House Speaker John Boehner not only faces a possible revolt from Tea Party freshmen who don't want to compromise on the 2011 budget, but also mutiny from his No. 2, Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor has been positioning himself as the conservative alternative to Boehner if Tea Partiers lose patience with all this compromising and oust the speaker, New York's John Heilmann argues. But the apparent Boehner-Cantor tension isn't the only case of Republican infighting. Below, a guide to some of the squabbles, large and small, within the GOP.

  • Cantor's "conspicuous efforts to put space between himself and the speaker," Heilemann writes, include unequivocally squashing speculation that there would be another temporary budget stopgap measure even as Boehner was floating the possibility. Last week, Cantor announced a vote on the Government Shutdown Prevention Act, a symbolic attempt to force the Senate to accept the House GOP's $61 billion in spending cuts. Modern speakers get their power from the more ideological wings of their party--think Nancy Pelosi or Newt Gingrich--but Boehner is backed by the older guard, Heilemann writes, meaning he doesn't have the stability that comes with support from the rightwing base.
  • There's a divide among the freshmen House Republicans, too, The Hill's Russell Berman reports--the 87 GOP newbies aren't really a unified bloc, and after six weeks of budget controversy, they're frustrated. South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem says she thought the fight would be over by now. Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack says he's "been very patient"--implying that patience is wearing thin. On top of that, some of the loudest voices arguing against any compromise on the budget--like Reps. Michele Bachmann and Mike Pence--are Washington veterans.
  • The intensity of the budget debate is such that freshman Sen. Mike Lee is refusing to endorse his fellow Utahan, Senator Orrin Hatch. The political winds within the Republican Party have shifted to the extent that Hatch, referred to as a "staunch conservative" in countless newspaper reports going back to the 1980s, has caught the label of RINO--Republican In Name Only. One of Hatch's signature issues has long been a balanced budget amendment, but Lee has stepped in and snagged the issue. Now, Hatch is playing catch-up, voting with Lee against budget stopgap proposals because the spending cuts weren't deep enough. Fellow senators are amused by the veteran Hatch's apparent mimicking of Lee, Politico's Manu Raju and Scott Wong report. "You can't get a piece of paper between them," a Republican senator said.

Update: We received an email from Cantor's office saying Heilemann's story is "completely false" and that "House Republicans are united and working tirelessly" to cut spending.

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