"The dynamics got much better," Fleming said, when Boehner "quit going to the White House to negotiate and he began to listen to us, to what we thought would work." Fleming called the debt and spending outcome an acceptable "stalemate." Democrats weren't able to reduce the "sequester" spending cuts they oppose, he said, and Republicans failed to delay or defund Obama's health care overhaul.
Republicans "lost the battle, but we're going to win the war," Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said of plans to keep attacking "Obamacare." In January, Huelskamp voted to dump Boehner as speaker. But he joined in Wednesday's standing ovation for Boehner in a closed-door caucus gathering.
"This is probably the best example of him following the 200 folks in our caucus who are conservative and are worried about Obamacare," Huelskamp said after the meeting.
Boehner said in a subdued statement, "Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president's health care law will continue."
Boehner lost control of the debt-and-shutdown debate weeks ago, when tea party-backed Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas launched a national drive to close much of the government if Democrats didn't agree to "defund Obamacare."
Senior Republicans called the mission hopeless. Boehner urged his colleagues to focus on the debt ceiling instead. The threat of government default, he said, would give them greater leverage to demand spending cuts from Democrats.
It's the same advice Boehner gave in January at a widely praised House GOP retreat in Williamsburg, Va. Republicans, he said then, must decide "where's the ground that we fight on? Where's the ground that we retreat on?"
Whatever progress Boehner made in Virginia was apparently lost this month, when scores of House Republicans joined Cruz's ultimately doomed crusade.