WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., mulling a leadership run in the wake of the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday that House Republicans “need to be more rhetorically aggressive against the administration.”
Roskam discussed the road ahead for Republicans after forcing GOP leaders to hold a meeting — planned for late Tuesday afternoon — to take stock after a group of hard-line GOP conservatives in effect drove Boehner to quit.
This comes as Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced his bid for speaker on Monday and appears to have a lock on the job.
Boehner surprised everyone on Friday when he said he would step down on Oct. 31. A new speaker will have to be elected soon in order to plan for a transition.
Roskam thought things were sprinting ahead a little too fast. That’s why on Saturday he swiftly rounded up enough colleagues — he needed at least 50 — to secure the meeting.
“I thought, we have just had an incredibly consequential event. The speaker of the House steps down with no scandal, not losing the majority, not a health reason, but because he does not enjoy enough support among his members.
“And we’re just going to have an election as if nothing happened? It seemed foolish.”
Roskam said he “wanted to pump the brakes a little bit” and “slow it down.”
While he doesn’t expect the deep rifts between House Republicans to be bridged in a single meeting, Roskam outlined his three goals for the Tuesday session.
The top one is to put up more of a fight. The reality is that even with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate, they can’t call the shots because Democratic President Barack Obama wields veto power.
Even with that, “We need to be more rhetorically aggressive against the administration,” Roskam said. “There are many times I hear from folks at home — and other Republicans — ‘You’re not fighting.’ ”
Boehner has little use for GOP House members who would rather shut down government than compromise, given the political reality. On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Boehner said, “there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done.”
Roskam said being more aggressive might be helpful — in moving along, not stopping the business of lawmaking.
If those hard-liners “know you are fighting,” then “if you make a suggestion that the next move is incremental” then they may accept taking those smaller steps.
Another thing is to define success, Roskam said. Is it enacting a law? Or helping laying the ground work so Republicans can win the White House in 2016?
Roskam also said the new leaders need to have their tasks more defined.
Boehner was on the road constantly, handling major fundraising chores for the election of House Republicans.
Boehner’s departure — and McCarthy’s likely ascent — opens up leadership spots down the ladder, with intense jockeying already underway.
Roskam is a former chief deputy whip — an appointed position — who lost an election for whip in 2014. His play could be for majority leader or whip.
“I’ve not made any calls,” said Roskam, wanting to get past the Tuesday meeting.
He’ll probably have to decide in a few days.
Said Roskam, “I’ll make a decision before very long.”