"Fire him!" Republican lawmakers chanted at Paul Teller during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, as Teller stood silently.
Things don't typically get so heated at the Capitol, but Teller has found himself at the center of intra-party controversy over the debt limit, accused of sandbagging Republican lawmakers who support Speaker John Boehner's proposal to raise it.
Teller serves as executive director of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the large and tremendously influential group of conservative Republican lawmakers in the House. Boasting over 175 members, it is the conservative caucus in the lower chamber. It analyzes bills, supplies talking points, and generally drives right-leaning policy discussion in the House.
Teller and junior RSC staffers were caught this week ginning up opposition to Boehner's plan on a conservative listserv Teller helped to form, asking conservative interest groups to pressure Republican lawmakers -- some of them dues-paying RSC -- not to vote for it.
An irate Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) reportedly read an email from Teller aloud during Wednesday's meeting and demanded an explanation. Roll Call's John Stanton and Humberto Sanchez report:
According to a copy of the email, Teller wrote: "Guys -- not feeling good. Just got out of Conference, and there was a lot of rally-'round-the-Speaker sentiment, even while admitting the plan was 'not perfect.'"
Teller's email went on to complain about the process outlined in the closed meeting, noting that the "bill text will be available tonight and will likely be on the floor Wednesday morning, in clear violation of the 3-day layover rule. The CCB pledge is nowhere to be found in any of these deliberations."
While a junior staffer's email was more explicit in asking conservative groups to attack, Teller is taking the heat. The RSC officially apologized for the emails on Wednesday.
The Teller flap comes as Boehner's proposal appears likely to pass, over the objections of conservative and tea-party groups. The anti-Teller backlash, Josh Green points out, is the clearest sign yet that Boehner and his leadership team have succeeded in twisting arms and compelling even conservative rank-and-file members to get their "ass[es] in line," as Boehner put it behind closed doors.
So, if you don't like Boehner's plan, if you want to revive the "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill that failed in the Senate, or if you just don't want to raise the debt ceiling at all, you've found your mantra: Save Paul Teller.
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