Analysis: Weak House GOP seeks leverage vs. Obama
Nor did Republicans attempt to hide their political motivations. Within minutes of the end of the three-day retreat, the party's campaign committee announced an online petition drive "to tell Senate Democrats, if you don't pass a budget, you won't get paid."
Left unsaid was that Republicans had quietly bowed, at least temporarily, to Obama's insistence that they raise the borrowing limit without spending cuts in return.
"They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy," the president said of Republicans a few days earlier. "What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people."
For their part, Republicans said they were leaving their retreat at a golf resort in good spirits and good condition.
If so, that would mark a turnabout from the past few weeks, when they scrapped and squabbled loudly among themselves despite winning back-to-back House majorities that officials said are their largest since World War II.
Rep. John Boehner, architect of a Republican takeover of the House two years ago, was elected to a second term as speaker by a less-than-unified rank and file. Nine Republicans voted for an alternative, a 10th voted present and two more didn't vote. All the dissenters are on the political right, a far different dynamic than when Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker four years ago over a smattering of objections from political centrists.
A few days later, Republicans overwhelmingly opposed legislation to speed $50 billion in emergency relief to victims of Superstorm Sandy without making offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget.
The bill passed on the strength of Democratic votes. Republicans, a party centered in the South, split along geographical as well as ideological lines as representatives from the storm-affected Northeastern states pleaded for solidarity.
"To my colleagues from states who have had disasters, some recently, who have decided that we need to change the rules of the game, shame on you," said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J. "A new caucus should be formed. ... It should be the 'Hypocritical Caucus' because when you wanted the money five minutes before the storm was over, you didn't have any hesitation coming to us."
He then warned the tea party's deficit hawks they may as well try to change Mother Nature.
"Florida, good luck with no more hurricanes. California, congratulations. Did you get rid of the (San) Andreas Fault," he said of an earthquake region. "Mississippi's in a drought. Do you think you're never going to have a flood again? Who are you going to come to when you need these things?"
EDITOR'S NOTE — David Espo is chief congressional correspondent for The Associated Press.
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