Tea Party Members of Congress Say Speaker John Boehner is Doing an 'Awesome' Job

Tea Party Members of Congress say Speaker Boehner is doing an 'awesome' job

ByJonathan Karl
April 19, 2011, 3:16 PM

April 20, 2011 -- The reports of Speaker of the House John Boehner's demise at the hands of rebellious tea partiers have been greatly exaggerated.

In fact, Boehner's support among freshman Republicans tied to the Tea Party movement is stronger than it has ever been, they say. Boehner himself has said there's "no daylight" between him and the Tea Party movement. That may just be right.

ABC News brought together four freshman Republicans for a roundtable discussion on the Speaker's leadership during the first 100 days of the new Republican majority in the House. They come from four different parts of the country, each elected on a wave of Tea Party support. None was thrilled with the compromise Boehner brokered to avert a government shutdown, but all give him high marks for fighting hard.

"I think he did a tremendous job," said Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C. "In fact, it hurts my feelings sometimes when I hear people criticize him because we know him to be completely committed, completely conservative, and a very hardworking gentleman."

Ellmers came to Washington as the quintessential Tea Party candidate. A nurse who only got into politics because she was outraged by the Obama health care law, she was endorsed by Sarah Palin.

Her praise of Boehner is echoed by fellow tea partier Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), a pizzeria owner who had never been involved in politics before running for Congress last year.

"I think for being our leader, I think he's an awesome guy to have there doing the negotiations," said Schilling.

Boehner has won over the freshman Republicans – at least for now – by bringing them into his decision-making.

"The thing I see him doing is listening a lot," said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who owned a dental practice before running for Congress last year. "It's listening. It's not telling us. It's listening."

As an example, Gosar said Boehner made sure he had "buy-in" from House Republicans in every step of his negotiations before striking a deal with the White House and Senate Democrats to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

Of course, they all wanted more spending cuts – the $38.5 billion in cuts agreed to fell short of the $61 billion they had passed in the House's own legislation – but they believe Boehner got the best deal possible.

"It wasn't exactly what, you know, all of us wanted, of course we wanted more but we also wanted to move on," said Schilling.

But after driving the battle over the budget to the brink of a government shutdown, a few admitted they aren't thrilled with Boehner's deal.

"It's not the amount of spending reductions that all of us would like to see," said Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.). "We certainly want to see more."

But they learned an old Washington lesson: It takes compromise to get anything done.

"We have only a portion of the government, the Republicans," Guinta said. "You know, you do have to negotiate with the Senate Democrats and the Democrat President of the United States."

"I think it was very important that we that we stuck to our guns, but really we had to prevent the government from shutting down," Ellmers said. "That would have just piled one large problem on top of another large problem."

Asked to grade Boehner's leadership, three of them gave him an A (Guinta, Ellmers and Gosar). Schilling gave him an A-minus.

Although all four of them eventually ended up voting in favor of the agreement, even those who voted against it give Boehner high marks for his leadership so far. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Id.), for example, told ABC News he gives the Speaker an A-minus, even though he opposed the spending deal.

As political newbies, they have seen many surprises.

"I knew government was somewhat dysfunctional, I just didn't realize how dysfunctional it is," Gosar said.

"I guess the biggest surprise to me would be just, you know, the folks out here are pretty much regular people," Rep. Schilling said.

"Even the Democrats?" we asked.

"Some of them," Schilling replied with a laugh.

"Well, even the Democrats are very nice," Ellmers insisted. "And one of the other things that I tell people back home when we talk about what are we surprised about, the number of prayer caucuses and Bible studies that are here. And I think the American public does not know that…God is here."

ABC News' Gregory Simmons and John Parkinson contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events