GOP lawmakers would have fared better "had we let the speaker pick the battlefield and the battle," said Republican strategist Mike McKenna. He said Boehner and his team did the best they could "with the mess that Ted Cruz's dead-end strategy left them." He said House Republicans appreciate that Boehner didn't say, "I told you so."
Boehner confirmed his coziness with those why defy him by appointing three high-profile budget conferees who voted against the debt-funding bill. They include former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who will lead House budget talks with the Senate in the coming weeks. A fourth GOP conferee, Boehner ally Tom Cole of Oklahoma, backed the compromise debt-funding bill.
With the government now funded through mid-January, and the debt ceiling lifted a few weeks beyond that, some lawmakers say Congress is headed toward renewed partisan brinksmanship this winter.
"All this does is delay this fight four months," said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.
Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said Republicans erred by focusing on the government funding bill instead of the debt. But he doesn't blame Boehner.
"We're a body of independent contractors, each with his own constituency," Kingston said. Boehner, he said, "is going to be OK. You know, it's a pretty tough job."
Previous House speakers found that to be true, even when their caucuses followed their advice.
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Alan Fram, Henry C. Jackson, Laurie Kellman and Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.