A revamped House Republican leadership faced its first real challenge after support for its border security bill collapsed, forcing the team to regroup and try again before rolling out a second plan Friday morning.
For several Tea Party Republicans, they say the new team’s inclusive style of legislating is far more attractive — and effective — than the top-down approach preferred by former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who stepped down from his leadership post this week.
Rep. Matt Salmon said leadership, which includes newly minted Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, handled the situation “better than I’ve seen them handle anything thus far.”
“I have been a real critic of leadership, but I have to be complementary of how Kevin McCarthy, as majority leader, has shown that things will be different than they used to be,” said the fourth-term Arizona lawmaker. “A lot of members were more excited about how this process was handled.”
Salmon said that as soon as the initial House bill failed, the leadership immediately sought input from conference members who opposed the measure before crafting new legislation.
“They were actually listening to what members had to say,” he said.
“This looks like a new dawn for the way we’re going to handle problems. Instead of trying to push people in the right direction they’re trying to win the hearts and the minds of people and let them actually have a say when they have a disagreement.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has butted heads with GOP leadership in the past, also praised the team for listening to the concerns of constituents and members as they redrafted the border bill.
“Leadership got that message, they understood it, they want to work together rather than berating each other, going against each other,” the Minnesota lawmaker said.
Bachmann called leadership’s approach “a tremendous model.”
“I’ve been here eight years, I can attest it hasn’t always been that way,” she said. “We will historically refer back to this debate as the model for going forward.”
Some critics say the House GOP leadership’s surprise pulling of its initial immigration bill Thursday was an embarrassing stumble and a sign of weakness, saying a stronger leadership team would have been able to muscle the bill through. But Rep. John Fleming, R-La., denies the action reflected poorly on the team.
“It’s like climbing Mt. Everest trying to pass something like this,” he said after a close-door meeting with his House GOP colleagues late Thursday. “I don’t think that’s any discredit on our leadership at all. It’s a tough job. I’d hate to try to get something like this passed.”
Some House Republicans members worry leadership is moving too fast, as votes on the new legislation are expected late Friday.
“I don’t think it’s the proper way to do the people’s business to act this quickly on legislation where you deny the American people the opportunity to participate,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala. “We have not had the opportunity to study it, to ascertain what is in it, what it does and whether it's good or bad for our country.”
Brooks said he would prefer to have the weekend to study the legislation, then vote Monday.
“It’s much more important to get something of this magnitude right than it is to get it done on a Friday so people can go on [overseas trips] and go back home doing whatever it is they're going to do,” he said.
But the Alabama lawmaker stopped short of criticizing his party leaders, saying he will reserve judgment for now.
“I’m not pleased or displeased with leadership,” he said. “Are there policy disagreements? Yes. Are there procedural disagreements? Yes. But you know what, when you’re in Congress you’re going to have that with everybody at one time or another. No two people in Congress agree with each other 100 percent of the time.”
Washington Examiner political writer Betsy Woodruff contributed to this report.