WASHINGTON – House Speaker John Boehner candidly summed up the other day how the first month of the Republican-controlled 114th Congress had gone.
"Yes, there have been a couple of stumbles," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.
When Republicans assumed the gavel in both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years as a result of their election victories in November, they came in with a game plan:
Offer legislation that draws contrasts between them and President Obama; score victories passing bipartisan bills that Obama would have to grudgingly accept or veto; and not frighten voters away from choosing a Republican for the White House in 2016.
But a series of missteps set the game plan off script.
In January, Republican leaders in the House pulled a controversial border security bill from consideration, claiming a snowstorm made it impossible to hold a vote. So far there's been no effort to reschedule.
Conservative Republicans and Democrats who opposed the measure said the weather was a convenient excuse to shelve a bill that was in danger of failing on the House floor.
Boehner's leadership team also had to yank another GOP-sponsored bill — one that would ban most abortions after a 20-week pregnancy. Some Republicans complained that its rape-reporting requirements exposed a rift between the party's moderate and conservative wings.
Even on the new Congress' first day, Boehner had to weather a rebellion when 25 mostly conservative Republicans voted for someone other than him to be House speaker.
"Week one, we had the vote for speaker. Week two, we debated deporting children. Week three, we're debating rape and incest," said moderate Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. "I just can't wait for week four."
The apparent rise of moderate House Republicans has riled conservatives.
"I think you're going to see again and again it's going to be moderate and liberal Republicans who are going to make it difficult to move forward," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. "The heart of the Republican Party is conservatives. Liberals are in the other party."
As GOP unity in the House seems elusive, party solidarity between the House and Senate could be equally challenging.
House and Senate Republicans — who envisioned greater cooperation — are squabbling over immigration after the House passed a bill that would fully fund the Department of Homeland Security through September but also would reverse Obama's executive actions on immigration.
Facing a Feb. 27 deadline before the Homeland Security budget runs dry, Republican senators are struggling over how to fund it and keep conservatives happy by attacking Obama's solo moves.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who supports an immigration overhaul, said, "I don't know, honest to God, how this movie ends."