Congressional GOP takes on RNC’s Steele

Some of Congress' Republican leaders are unhappy with the party chair's unilateral moves

Topics: Michael Steele, Republican Party, War Room, John Boehner, R-Ohio, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.,

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele may believe that he grew up on the “streets,” and that such an upbringing gives him the experience to fight for his party, but his colleagues in the GOP’s congressional leadership are reportedly less than thrilled with the way he’s going about it.

Politico reports Monday on a meeting between Steele and several other Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner. The meeting reportedly turned into a showdown over Steele’s decision to have the RNC pushing policy ideas of its own — perhaps even without consulting people like McConnell and Boehner.

The catalyst for the debate was apparently Steele’s decision to develop and push a Republican “Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights.” Politico notes, “The statement of healthcare principles, outlined in a Washington Post op-ed, began with a robust defense of Medicare that puzzled some in a party not known for its attachment to entitlements.”

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True enough, and it’s also true that the Medicare issue eventually started tripping Steele up, as it required no small amount of cognitive dissonance for him to slam the idea of government-run healthcare even as he defended Medicare. But some credit’s due to Steele for his political skills this time around. Seniors vote, and the fear that healthcare reform will lead to cuts in Medicare has been very successful in creating and mobilizing opposition to the Democrats’ proposals.

Still, congressional Republicans had good reason to be upset. The RNC is, after all, not a policy shop — it’s a political outlet. And people like McConnell and Boehner are the ones who have to lead the Republicans’ strategy in Congress; that task only becomes more difficult when they suddenly have to deal with policy proposals coming from the RNC. According to Politico, as of the meeting, Steele had plans to unveil more of those.

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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