McCain in the Lion's Den
By Jonathan Weisman
At the request of his campaign, GOP nominee-to-be John McCain will be paying a visit tomorrow to the House Republican Conference, whose members include some who have in the past said they felt physically ill at the prospects of the Arizona senator heading the ticket. McCain has done battle with the House GOP over tax cuts, embryonic stem cells, campaign finance laws, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and torture, among other issues.
The contentious relationship reached its apex in 2004 when then-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert questioned McCain's credentials as a Republican. After McCain questioned whether Congress was asking a nation at war to sacrifice when it was cutting taxes, Hastert retorted with a bit of a non sequitur. "If you want to see the sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda. There's the sacrifice in this country. We're trying to make sure they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the wherewithal to be able to do it. And, at the same time, we have to react to keep this country strong."
If McCain is looking for a wet kiss from the Republican leadership when he and GOP leaders go before the cameras at the Capitol Hill Club, he might think again. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) will not endorse him, citing his role as chairman of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), whose rural district went heavily for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee on Feb. 5, will also decline to endorse, as will House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), who has stayed neutral since his horse, Fred Thompson, pulled up lame and limped from the track. Only the chief deputy whip, Eric Cantor of Virginia, is on the McCain team.
Boehner did offer this endorsement of sorts on CNN Sunday: "It's not that I have agreed with him on every position he's taken over the years, but when you look at his record on fiscal responsibility, you look at his record on getting rid of wasteful Washington spending, look at his record on a strong national defense and leading forward in the fight on terrorism, he's a solid conservative. But clearly he has some work to do to consolidate conservatives around the country."
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