Things between the Freedom Caucus and House Speaker Paul Ryan are just fine. Thank you very much. Sure some differences need to be worked out but every partisan relationship has its ups and downs. At least, that's what Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters this morning at breakfast.
Responding to a Washington Post report that conservatives were mulling a breakup, Meadows insisted during a Bloomberg News event Thursday, that he only met with the speaker to talk about legislation not "some kind of a leadership change." Sources say it's not that simple.
"If I was putting my counselor hat on," one empathetic but weary Republican tells the Washington Examiner, "it'd be time to refer this relationship to a specialist."
But who could help? Not President Trump, who is focused more on congressional Democrats. Not OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, who is too busy crunching numbers to negotiate with his old colleagues. And certainly not ousted White House aide Steve Bannon, who never saw much in Ryan.
Reconciling their differences seems impossible. But that isn't alarming and it isn't necessarily newsworthy. The pair were made to squabble.
From the beginning, the Freedom Caucus and the GOP leader never got along. The group refused to endorse Ryan for speaker, saying in an October 2015 statement that "while no consensus exists," its members hoped any policy disagreements "can be resolved within our conference in due time." Clearly they have not.
The caucus and the speaker's office have bickered over everything from minor budget resolutions to major legislation like Obamacare repeal. At one point, some members of the House Rules Committee even tried ending the motion to vacate, that parliamentary procedure for ousting speakers, lest anyone do anything hasty.
All this might be painful but all this is also oddly normal. Like a codependent couple, they quarrel and occasionally someone grumbles on background about leaving. For now, take Meadows at his word. His conservatives don't seem ready to call it quits.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.