Turns out that some of Michael Steele's GOP handlers are none too pleased with the outspoken leadership role Steele's carved out for himself. In particular, Steele stepped out in front of the health care reform debate by issuing a "seniors health care bill of rights" before getting approval from Republican congressional leaders. That prompted those leaders to call Steele into a meeting and "check" him:
GOP leaders, in a private meeting last month, delivered a blunt and at times heated message to RNC Chairman Michael Steele: quit meddling in policy. The plea was made during what was supposed to be a routine discussion about polling matters and other priorities in House Minority Leader John Boehner's office. But the session devolved into a heated discussion about the roles of congressional leadership and Steele, according to multiple people familiar with the meeting.Steele was taken aback by the comments from Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Senate GOP Conference Chairman of Tennessee and Senate GOP Policy Chairman John Thune of South Dakota and grew defensive during the 10-minute discussion, according to two people in the room.Source: GOP Leaders to Michael Steele: Back off, Politico.com
First, the RNC stripped Steele of the authority to make big financial decisions. Now, GOP heavyweights are telling him to pipe down and do no more than what he's told to do. And support for Steele does not appear to be growing:
There are larger issues at hand, though, beyond a tense exchange over strategy. Since Steele took over the party earlier this year, congressional leaders and their staff have often cringed at the voluble chairman's gaffes and rolled their eyes at his unambiguous view that he alone leads the party.
"He's on a short leash here," said one top House GOP leadership aide.