After ‘fiscal cliff’ drama, Republicans take it easy at closed-door meeting

Chris Moody

WASHINGTON--Finally, a night of calm on Capitol Hill.

Beleaguered House Republicans held a closed-door meeting on the Hill Wednesday for what turned out to be a mundane gathering that followed weeks of battles over how to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. The members, many who just seemed relieved that the fiscal cliff ordeal was, for now, finished, discussed amendments to a series of procedural rules for the 113th Congress.

"It was kinda dull," said Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey as he left the meeting after it was over. (Some members, who just seemed bored and tired by the process, had left early.)

For more than two hours, caucus members discussed 32 proposals that hardly a soul outside of Washington will ever hear about, or would likely care to hear about.

One discussion addressed the current House rule that bars lawmakers' children older than the age of 12 from joining their parent on the House floor. The proposal would allow "all children of Members of the House of Representatives, no matter what age, to accompany Members on the House floor." It failed. But the prospect that House Speaker John Boehner would publicly expel a 13-year-old from the House floor seems unlikely.

After so many emotional weeks of work on the fiscal cliff package, a dull gathering may well have been just what these lawmakers needed.

At least half a dozen members arrived at the meeting wearing open-collared shirts tucked into blue jeans, a sort of sartorial rebellion against the late nights of fierce and serious debate. Call it post-fiscal cliff chic.  Even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had traversed the Capitol to the House side, sported an orange baseball cap on his head and a casual green wind breaker.

The caucus-wide meeting--the first such gathering since Boehner angered many conservatives by supporting a bill that allowed taxes to increase--could have gone much differently given the intense events of the past 48 hours.  Boehner, for one, could have addressed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's very public rant against him for not holding a vote to offer federal relief aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Instead, the discussion focused on the amendments, and Boehner did not bring up the fiscal cliff drama, several lawmakers said.

But while members harboring ill feelings toward party leadership remained silent, not all wounds are healed. For instance, unconfirmed rumors prior to the meeting had hinted at a battle to unseat Boehner as speaker. And while most members said they hadn't heard anything of the sort and the speaker's office officially denies any such efforts, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who voted against the fiscal cliff deal, did leave the meeting saying he didn't plan to support Boehner for the position.

"I haven't made a decision on what to do yet, but as of now, I still haven't seen the changes I want to see," Amash told reporters when he left the meeting. "He's got until tomorrow."

The body will vote Thursday on Boehner's future.