Boehner allies downplay GOP rift

Washington (CNN)House Speaker John Boehner and his top lieutenants are downplaying the rift among Republicans that was exposed during last week's intense wrangling over funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

The House, Boehner said on Sunday, is a "rambunctious place."
"We have 435 members. A lot of members have different ideas about what we should and shouldn't be doing," he said during an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation."
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    Asked if he's capable of leading the chamber, Boehner said: "I think so. I'm not going to suggest it's easy, because it's not."
    The disagreements among conservatives on procedures and tactics -- and the way those divides have hobbled Boehner -- was on vivid public display Friday when the House, faced with a midnight deadline to keep DHS from a shutdown, failed to pass a three-week extension of its funding.
    The party's right flank insisted that it not cave on its demand that any Homeland Security measure also include provisions to undo President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. But Democrats blocked that bill from advancing in the Senate, instead sending back a version with all of the immigration portions stripped out and leaving Boehner with few options to mollify his party.
    The three-week funding measure, intended to save face and avoid the embarrassment of a shutdown, wound up embarrassing his leadership team anyway. And the House was left to pass a one-week measure instead, pushing the same fight back just several more days.
    "Could we have done better Friday? Yes. Will we? Yes, we will," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy R-California, a key Boehner ally, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
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    He insisted the party doesn't actually face disagreements on the policy issues at hand.
    "We have difference of opinion on strategy and tactics, but on principle we are united," McCarthy said.
    Boehner's allies feared that if he allowed a vote on the Senate's "clean" bill to fund Homeland Security for months without including an attack on Obama over immigration, conservatives would call for a vote to remove him as speaker.
    Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Pennsylvania Republican, acknowledged on Friday that he'd heard talk of ousting Boehner.
    "It's time for all of these, you know, D.C. games to end," he said. "I mean all these palace coups or whatever the hell is going on around here has to end, and we have to get down to business of governing."
    It wouldn't be the first time some conservatives sought to remove Boehner -- but they've never had any success before.
    Twenty-five Republicans refused to back him for speaker at the start of the new Congress, but they didn't coalesce around a single challenger, and Boehner ultimately won with 216 of the 408 total votes cast.
    But a leading House conservative who's often mentioned as a potential Boehner alternative insisted there's no move afoot to unseat the speaker.
    Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who chairs the hard-liner House Freedom Caucus, said Sunday that Boehner's decision to advance a one-week measure won't cost the speaker his job.
    "That's not gonna happen," Jordan said on CNN's "State of the Union."
    Jordan said he hasn't had conversations with any conservative House colleagues about overthrowing Boehner.
    Asked whether Boehner could be ousted over the issue, Jordan responded: "No, that's not the point."
    He said he wants to see the House's GOP leadership do well because "that helps the country succeed."
    Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican who formerly chaired the right-wing Republican Study Committee and is now the House's No. 3-ranking GOP member, said the coming week will allow the House and Senate to try to hash out their differences in a joint conference committee. And he, too, downplayed the perils facing Boehner in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
    "Obviously, our members have a lot of differences on how maybe we want to go about tactics, but our goal is the same," he said. "Our goal is to fight this President's illegal actions on immigration, and we're now in a position to force the Senate to go to conference committee."
    Scalise said conservatives who are frustrated about Friday's outcome should instead turn their ire toward Senate Democrats and pressure the minority party in that chamber to allow the House-passed measure that funds Homeland Security and unravels Obama's immigration actions to receive a vote.
    "They need to light up the Senate switchboard," Scalise said, "and make those Senate Democrats feel the heat who have been standing with the president on his illegal actions."
    Still, Boehner acknowledged that his job corralling Republicans is a complicated one.
    Asked whether he enjoys it, Boehner responded: "Most days. Friday wasn't a whole lot of fun. But most days."