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
Please don't fire him!
His comedic value is priceless.
Sweet! Let the self destructing idiots fight it out.
Doesn't Steele know by now that the Republican Party doesn't value a rational assessment of the future?
Yes, there's nothing like telling the truth to infuriate and enrage Republican strategists. Telling the truth is never EVER a Republican strategy. I don't know why Steele bothers to stay in his post; he's only gotten abuse and more abuse for his troubles.
How can these people lead the country when they can't lead themselves?
They can't even get along with each other. No wonder no one else can stand this bunch of over stuffed idiots
Micheal Steeles methology is working so far,why complain!
Let them fight each other all they want. They seem to have nothing better to do. We all know they aren't saying anything but NO in Congress and calling the President every name in the book when they get on tv. Might as well use that energy in a positive way!
Michael Steele is an interesting case. One wonders why he is part of a party that despises minorities and women and, whose only goal is to assist the wealthy get more wealth.
Steele finally uses his brain. Now he's on the outs with his own party.
What you gonna do now go back to being yourself... Robot Steele?
The guy is a hack. He says things off the top of his head trying to get a rise out of people in his personal game of "GOTCHA!"
The GOP needed a mouthpiece with that was aggressive, but a little class would have been nice.
Aha! This is so funny. It seems like every trickery the Gop tries backfires. I bet you thought Michael Steele was perfect for your party.
Two Democratic senators retire and the Rs think they will win back Congress–won't happen. There will likely be Republican gains in both chambers, which is typical in an off-year election, particularly with the economy still struggling. However, the Republicans won't win either house, and whatever Steele says won't change things anyway.
Well... he's right – it would take a series of ridiculously major scandals for the Democrats to lose the House. Will the Republicans gain some seats? Almost definitely. But pretending that Republicans are going to pick up a net of 80 seats is utterly ridiculous.
Ahh, love is all around, so warm and fuzzy.
Would the last peson left in the Republican Party please turn off the lights on your way out? Thanks.
Reps will never get any where with Steele. He's been a huge disappointment and a very weak link just at the time when the country needs a viable alternative to what's happening in Washington. It's the Reps to lose, and I think they will.
I have to admit that Steele is a puzzle. At one point he spews typical pathological Republican lies that Obama won't use the word 'terrorst' (Obama uses it too much IMHO), then he says something blunt, frank, unflatteringly true, and about the Republicans.
It is entertaining to watch. I personally hope he goes on the Rachel Maddow Show, where she will evicerate him with facts. Boy howdy will the right-wingers hair catch on fire then.
So long Chairman Token!
Pkm as long as steel take orders from russ l steel will not change same old gop
If Michael Steele is actually interested in what's good for the Republican Party, he will stop telling people to "shut up" and step down as soon as possible.
The next sunrise would be a good time.
It doesn't matter why he was chosen for such an important position: it was a major mistake.
We don't need any defeatists in my party predicting failure in the coming elections, especially when so many citizens are fed up with the Democrats.
He is digging himself deeper," the Senate aide griped about Steele,
uh, Republicans, what was your first clue that Steele's a flake?
the gop are now turning on each other. they are a bunch of clowns. keep up the good work losers.
Chairman Steele, you need to step down for the good of the party. You can rise only as high as your expectations which don't read very well on your part. Let the republican leaders soar if they can without your negative rhetoric.
Chairman Steele is the least of the RNC's problems – Cheney and is idiot daughter are the one's digging the RNC deeper into oblivion. While I dont always agree with Steele – I think he's right about the November elections. I think the southern states will pick up a few more seats, but definitely not a house majority. No way, no how that will happen.