WASHINGTON — Conservative Republicans in the House are impeding legislative progress in Congress, and Republican Rep. Tom Cole is fed up.
"They think they've been elected to the House of Commons, where all power is concentrated in one chamber," said Cole, an ally of House Speaker John Boehner, who has often found himself at odds with the most conservative members of the conference. "The speaker is not the prime minister," and, Cole added, "just being able to get something through the House doesn't mean much."
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Cole recalled the drama preceding a fiscal cliff deal, when House Republicans scuttled Boehner's own "Plan B" before it could come to a vote, an outcome widely interpreted as a sign of House leadership's lack of control over the conference.
"You can't get people who won't vote for Boehner's 'Plan B,' and then wonder why they end up with the fiscal cliff deal they do," Cole said.
Shortly thereafter, a few of those same members decided to oppose Boehner in his reelection for speaker — and, in Cole's assessment, "play(ed) fast and loose with the speaker election on television."
"I don't have a lot of sympathy for that behavior," Cole added. "It's like amateur night at the Bijou."
Cole doesn't think this bloc of members will necessarily have an incentive to change this behavior in the short term, which could deepen the legislative puzzle facing House leaders. But he is hopeful that they will evolve and become more amenable to compromise with time.
"This is a pretty new conference," Cole said. "Over time I think they'll get better."