House Speaker John Boehner told a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday that he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hadn't spoken in two weeks, even as the two men have pursued clashing strategies ahead of a possible Homeland Security Department shutdown on Friday.
House conservatives are furious at McConnell after his announcement Tuesday that his chamber would move toward voting for a clean DHS funding bill, along with a separate measure blocking President Obama's executive actions on immigration. And the subtext of Boehner's comment, according to members and staff present, was an assurance to his conference that the two leaders are not cutting a backroom deal behind conservatives' backs.
"Our staffs have been talking back and forth. But at the end of the day, the Senate has to act," Boehner told reporters, when asked about the comment after the conference meeting. "I dont know what the Senate is capable of passing, and until I see what they're going to pass, no decisions have been made on the House side."
Boehner and McConnell eventually did meet Wednesday afternoon. But Boehner's comment underscores the tensions between the two leaders, who are each grappling with their own legislative realities. For pragmatic McConnell, a shutdown is out of the question. For Boehner, however, who is fighting to hold an unruly conference in line, keeping his right flank satisfied is key to keeping his speakership.