So it seems pretty likely that Boehner had a really small intended audience for that bit of theater: his caucus. His increasingly restive caucus. His appearance Tuesday might just have something to do with the push from conservative media on Monday to suggest that Rep. Tom Price (GA) might just be considering challenging Boehner's speakership. That speculation was soon shot down but not before the message was sent to Boehner that he needs to watch his back.
[T]he chatter among conservative activists outside Congress underscores the risk Boehner faces in his negotiations with the president, particularly if he yields to Obama’s demands for higher tax rates on the wealthy and an increase in the debt ceiling without securing significant concessions in return.Put to the test, at least one Republican representative wasn't willing to back up Boehner. That member is Rep. David Schweikert, who was kicked out of his committee chairmanship by Boehner this month for his past votes against leadership. He and two other tea party types received this punishment, a move that hasn't gone over at all well with those three, and is likely causing no small amount of grumbling among their cohorts. Those cohorts who are more allergic to raising taxes on rich people than to anything.
The Speaker has explicitly pushed his conference to present a unified front during the lame-duck congressional session, but that has not stopped Republicans on all sides of the fiscal debate from speaking up.
It's not for nothing that the Wall Street Journal warns that Boehner's big test is to "keep GOP ranks behind him." Tuesday's performance might have been about nothing more than that.