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March 01, 2015

Boehner defends his U.S. House leadership amid conservative unrest

WASHINGTON - Fresh from an embarrassing rebuke at the hands of conservatives in his own party, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner played down any risk to his continuing leadership on Sunday, saying disagreements with fellow Republicans were merely over strategy, not goals.

Asked if he could lead the fractious House, Boehner said, "I think so. I'm not going to suggest it's easy, because it’s not."

The House narrowly averted cutting off funds to the Department of Homeland Security on Friday after Boehner failed to rein in conservative Republicans. They were insisting on tying the issue to blocking President Barack Obama's move to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

"We do have some members who disagree from time to time over the tactics that we decide to employ. But remember that Republicans are united in this idea that the president has far exceeded his constitutional authority," Boehner said in an interview on the CBS program "Face the Nation." 

Boehner narrowly won a third term as speaker on Jan. 6, surviving a stiff challenge from 25 conservative Republicans that signaled a possible growing split within the party as it assumed full control of Congress. A faction of dissident House Republicans oppose him because they say he has done too little to cut spending and fight Obama's immigration and healthcare policies.

Boehner's failure to corral enough votes to fund the department for three weeks - they settled for one week - again raised questions over whether he could lead House Republicans.

Steve Scalise, the third-ranking House Republican, noted to the "Fox News Sunday" program that the selection of a House speaker took place "just a few weeks ago."

"And that vote is over. We are moving forward," Scalise said. "... And obviously he's speaker. He's going forward."

Republican Peter King of New York, a prominent voice on national security issues, called the lawmakers who voted against the homeland security funding "absolutely irresponsible" and "self-righteous and delusional." 

King, who noted that three men were arrested in New York just days ago for allegedly attempting to join the Islamic State militant group, urged other House members to back Boehner. 

"We have to stand behind John Boehner," he told ABC's "This Week" program.

But King said Boehner must find a way this week, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has delivered a  speech to Congress on Tuesday, to bring a "clean" homeland security funding bill without the immigration language to the House floor for an up-or-down vote.

Asked on the CNN program "State of the Union" about a possible attempt to depose Boehner, outspoken House conservative Jim Jordan, like Boehner from Ohio, said "that's not going to happen." 

Boehner said "the House is a rambunctious place" but that he enjoyed his job "most days." He said that Friday - when the House failed to pass the three-week funding measure - was "messy." 

"I’m not into messy. But listen, I enjoy being in a legislative body. I enjoy all the personalities, and I’ve got a lot of them," he said.