Rep. Andy Harris, angry over a newspaper quote in which an aide to the House Republican leadership described House conservatives as "fringe guys," laid into newly reelected Speaker John Boehner during a caucus meeting on Wednesday, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the private meeting.
Harris, a Baltimore County lawmaker who is Maryland's only Republican in Congress, held up an article from Politico about Boehner's effort to punish GOP members who voted against him in Tuesday's leadership election. Twenty-five Republicans withheld their support for Boehner, who was nevertheless reelected by a wide margin.
"We don't need these fringe guys as much as we did anymore," the GOP leadership aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Politico. "We can let them walk on certain bills, and it just won't matter. That gives us breathing room."
Several sources said Harris, a conservative who voted for Boehner on Tuesday, appeared to be incensed by the quote and questioned why a leadership aide made the comment. Boehner, in turn, described the quote as "despicable."
Spokesmen for Harris and Boehner did not respond to a request for comment about the exchange.
Harris and other Republicans have been criticized by some conservatives for backing Boehner, whom they see as too willing to compromise with Democrats. Still, Harris's vote was not a surprise. He backed Boehner last year as well.
But several were eyeing the leadership vote more closely this year. Boehner went on offense against outside conservative groups such as Heritage Action and Club for Growth in late 2013, arguing their effort to block a deal on a bipartisan budget agreement was "ridiculous."
"If Speaker Boehner does not deliver on his promises, a Republican House Conference can be called by 50 members and I would join in that call," Harris posted on his Facebook page Tuesday in defense of his vote for Boehner.
"I have no problem standing up for conservative principles to the speaker and Republican leadership, such as my vote against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, as well as my votes against the Ryan-Murray budget deal and debt ceiling increases," he wrote.