Senate Republicans are pleased that McConnell's moves have given them the rare opportunity to dictate strategy to the lower chamber. Sen. Mark Kirk, who has for weeks publicly denounced McConnell's prior strategy of continuously voting on the House bill, said that the House needs to come to grips with the new reality.
"Having been a House member for 10 years, we're used to the Senate saying this is the way it's got to be to get through the Senate. So the House had better get ready to hear that kind of message," Kirk said.
Yet it is not clear that this is an offer Boehner can accept. Part of the problem is that conservatives' faith in Boehner remains unsettled, with some now warning of ominous repercussions should he allow a vote on a DHS funding bill that does not block spending to implement Obama's executive action on immigration.
"It'll be a dramatic time if that happens, and that's about all I can say about that," said Rep. Steve King, a staunch opponent of Democratic immigration reforms. He and others are advocating going through with a funding lapse for DHS if Democrats do not agree to block Obama's immigration measure. Boehner, so far, has been tight-lipped privately and in front of the cameras about his next move.
"If he has any alternate plans, or if he has a plan B, he didn't mention it at all," Rep. John Fleming said. "We also know that neither one of them, Mitch McConnell or John Boehner—they've made statements in the past that they wouldn't allow the government to shut down."
Walden defended the plan, noting that instead of risking a complete government standstill, leaders have isolated just DHS as the target of their brinkmanship.
"Part of what we did is minimize what we would deal with now to the issue of the president's overreach and executive orders," he said. "That was a difficult set of decisions, and bipartisan in the end."
By contrast with Boehner, the newly minted McConnell has a lot of good will left among his colleagues in the Senate. Even after he caved to Democrats' demands and offered no-frills legislation to stave off a department shutdown this week, most Senate Republicans—especially those facing potentially bitter reelections in 2016—are pleased with their pragmatic leader.
"These are some tough times. It looks like we are going to start getting some progress from our Democratic colleagues here," said Sen. Ron Johnson, who is up for reelection in Wisconsin in 2016. "It's a tough job, and I think we all understand that."
In private member luncheons, senators say McConnell has been frank and judicious with members as he has sought to quell conservative voices in his conference who would prefer to stop the president's executive actions on immigration at any political cost.
"Overall, he has shown some strength and some passion, which is unusual," Sen. John McCain said. "He usually is very steady, but he has shown a few passionate moments here in our discussions."