WASHINGTON (CNN) – GOP tempers flared Wednesday during a routine conference call when House and Senate leadership aides confronted Republican National Committee staffers over recent comments by party chairman Michael Steele.
At issue was Steele's prediction earlier this week during his nationwide book tour that the GOP would not take back the House in November - comments that infuriated Republican strategists on Capitol Hill, who decided to broach the topic during Wednesday's call.
The dispute - first reported by Hotline On Call - occurred on a daily strategy call with aides from Republican leadership offices in the House and Senate along with RNC officials.
According to a senior House aide on the conference call, a Senate staffer said the chairman was trampling on the GOP's message in a week that saw several high-profile Democratic retirements. The Senate aide told RNC staffers to do a better job controlling their chairman.
"He is digging himself deeper," the Senate aide griped about Steele, according to the House source. "He's got to stop and put and end to this thing."
RNC Research Director Jeff Berkowitz jumped in and "offered a hard defense of Steele," according to the senior House aide. Berkowitz shot back that the Senate official was "out of line," which then set off a round of "bickering," the House aide told CNN.
A House aide chimed in to express sympathy with the plight of Steele's advisers, but said the chairman's remarks had the potential to do serious damage to fundraising, candidate recruiting and voter motivation ahead of the midterm elections. "You guys got to tell us how long this is going to last," the House aide said. "Our phones are ringing off the hook. He is putting our bosses in difficult positions."
The call ended shortly thereafter. Asked for comment on the flare-up, RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho e-mailed: "Not commenting on staff calls."
The senior House aide later told CNN that congressional Republicans have "confronted" Steele over the past year about some of his comments.
"He has been confronted numerous times by Senate leaders and House leaders over the last year," the aide said. "They have confronted him about speaking about things he shouldn't be speaking about, whether it's Senate policy or House policy."
"Today, he threw a temper tantrum and told people to shut up," the aide said, referring to an ABC interview in which Steele lashed out at his critics. "At this point, he needs to look in the mirror."
Story updated at 9:20 p.m. EST
Sara Palin and Michael Steele is the best thing for the Dems.
Why are the Republicans getting mad? Don't they want their "leader" to be honest with the public?
He has been confronted numerous times by Senate leaders and House leaders over the last year," the aide said. "They have confronted him about speaking about things he shouldn't be speaking about, whether it's Senate policy or House policy.
Steele is a clown just like his sister Sara Palin.
Steele shinin' da shoes fo da masser dude?
Steele waitin' fo my Barack the Magic Negro DVD from the Republican Party Christmas gift list.
Republican Party = Male, Pale (Not Boner) and Stale
And the bloodbath begins, each Repulican for his own and kattie bar the doors tell 2010 and probaly beyond....
Doesn't steele realize STILL that he is their steppinfetchit? He is their token? He is like the maitre'd at the country club they send on errands and then say to their friends "see, I'm not racist, I talked to a colored!" steele is the worst sort of fool – the fool who does not realize that he is being used because he is a fool.
Funny that when he actually says something true - like that there is not a snowballs chance of the republicons gaining control of anything in then upcoming election, that the hell hounds are loosed on him. He would do well to set up a tweet directly to ayatollah limbaugh and run all his thoughts through the real party chairman before speaking. They have to all lie from the same script or they look even more foolish and more brazen in their lying. And if steele doesn't shape up, they'll have him parking their limos at the next rnc gathering.
Truthfully, this was a great strategy...he put out his comment to get instant feed back and boy did he get it......not to mention...lots that are saying bull...we're going to storm the next election. You gotta give it to Steele....this did ire many...but also got those who want change interested. Steele real challenge is to bring in new blood...ones that people can trust and have a real agenda besides riping off his or her consistuents....just sayin'
I'm in full support of Mr. Steele, it's the current GOP members that don't understand the depth of the concerns for a return to responsible government based on the constitution.
The Democratic party is not at fault, it's the left-wing marxist cretins who have highjacked their party. There are many independents that now understand it's not a party thing, it's a common-sense, responsible thing. The Tea Party is the one that is all-inclusive as we have watched the prior 4 years and the current administration chip away at our freedoms and our self -determination.
Mr. Steele, concientious, hardworking americans support you.
Now.... it's off to Borders for my copy.
Are Mitch McConnell and his republican buddies getting their white hats and robes out to "control" Steele?
Isn't it odd...when a republican does happen to tell the truth like Steele did, the republicans want to tear him apart....gee gee gee...what a bunch of losers.
Lol wow this is funny
WOW I just love to see a good Republican fight. I hope it stays on the air for about 11 or 12 months.
So we can get plenty of coverage of Republicans fighting, but we can't get C Span in to cover the Libs and the Health Care Reform....despite the campaign promises.....great. How are we going to know which democrat got what bribe and / or payoff?
I never liked Steele.
The Republicans will take the House back in 2010. I don't care what Gaff Master Steele says.
Steele is an assest to the Democrats.
Regardless of qualities Michael Steele may have, he was made party chairman as the GOP response to Obama popularity. The movers and shakers in the GOP never had any intent to let Steele run with the ball. All they wanted from Steele was his black skin. Now that Steele his speaking his mind, the GOP is thinking maybe having a person of color as their national chairman isn't worthwhile after all.
Another pitiful attempt by the GOP to be something they are not – diverse.
The guy is a bit whacko but what he said is true.There is no chance in the world that Americans would allow the party that came so close to ruining America back in the house, it would be the suicide of the nation. Other then that I have not heard much from Steele that makes any sense.
Obviously, Steele is the Wrong Person for the Job.
How can anyone disagree?
Michael Steele just doesn't seem to get it. The modern day Republican party does not and will not tolerate any independant thinking whatsoever . If you are not in perfect lock-step with Rush, Hannity, Beck, and the other right-wing extremists, you are a heretic who needs to be "purged" from "their" party.
I don't know what makes the GOP think that just because a number of high ranking Democrats are retiring that they have a chance to get those seat. I just love watching the GOP eat their own. I think Mr. Steele is going to find out that he is just a figure head – made possible by the election of President Obama.
Just simmer down, you congressional republicans. The Tea Party, I mean the paint sniffer party idiots, are calling the shots, not you morons.
Watch the hate mongers turn on themselves.
We had 6 years of GOP rule. And how big is the deficit now?
Imagine that, the party of angry old men are getting angry at one of their own.
"The Senate aide told RNC staffers to do a better job controlling their chairman" So thats how the Republican Party works; the staffers controll the guy at the top. Who does Steele think he is?