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RNC Chair Michael Steele Facing Criticism Again

Frederick Cosby | 1/25/2010, 2:20 p.m.

The political sword fight between Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and his own party continued Thursday when the number-three Republican in the House of Representatives questioned the wisdom of the Republican National Committee holding its winter meeting at a lavish Hawaiian resort while most Americans are suffering through economic hard times.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) paused, and took a deep breath before answering a reporter€s question about whether the GOP was sending the right kind of message by holding the RNC event next week at Honolulu€s Hilton Hawaiian Village in the dead of what€s been a cold winter in the rest of the U.S. made even colder by a bad economy.€Do I want voters to think that Republicans do nothing but go to beach resorts in January?€ Cantor said dryly. €No.€

Democrats in the House of Representatives abandoned their plans to hold their annual retreat a posh Virginia resort and moved it to the Capitol Visitor's Center on Capitol Hill in deference to current economic conditions. House Republicans scrapped their upscale retreat plans and are instead holding their two-day meeting at a hotel at Baltimore€s downtown Inner Harbor.

Cantor went on to chastise Steele over comments the first-ever black RNC chairman gave in an interview with ABC News Tuesday in which Steele said Republicans could cut into the Democratic majority in the House in November, but declined to say that the GOP could regain the majority.

Some Republican leaders, giddy in the afterglow of Republican Scott Brown trouncing Democrat Martha Coakley to win the late Sen. Edward Kennedy€s Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts, now believe the House is theirs for the taking.

€Obviously, I disagree with his statement that we can€t take back the House,€ Cantor said. €Because I believe we can.€

Cantor said the impression is the House Republican leadership will do what it has to do to win in November and may not take the hand-in-hand approach the congressional Republicans and the RNC usually employ in election years.

€We€re trying to address the needs of the Republican conference along with our leader and the team we have at the leadership table,€ Cantor said. €Chairman Steele has a role to play in these elections, he€s out doing the job of trying to run the RNC.€

The RNC€s Hawaiian retreat could make the hot seat the embattled Steele is sitting on a couple of degrees hotter. Many state RNC officials are livid about some of Steele€s actions €" sometimes praising Obama, sometimes admonishing Republicans, criticizing Rush Limbaugh and reaching out to minority and gay Republicans.

Several RNC members and GOP donators went nuclear when it was revealed that Steele, who earns $223,500 for the full-time RNC chair position, was accepting fees for speeches. And they went ballistic about Steele going on a tour to promote his new book, €Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda.€

A group of disgruntled RNC members are crafting a resolution to be presented at the winter meeting that Steele cancel his tour and donate all proceeds from the book to the RNC and Republican candidates.

Steele has thumbed his nose at critics, calling them old political hacks that have no idea of what€s going on beyond the Washington Beltway.

€I tell them to get a life,€ Steele told ABC News Radio recently. €If you don€t want me in the job, fire me. Until then, shut up. Get with the program or get out of the way.€

In addition, Steele will have to grapple with a bitter fight within the RNC over efforts by conservative Republicans to push a resolution to establish a so-called political €purity test€ that would forbid the party from assisting or funding Republican candidates who stray from the GOP€s platform.

Jonah Kaauwai, Hawaii€s state Republican Party Chairman, told the Honolulu Star Bulletin that the resolution could be a €divisive€ party-splitting measure.

€Anything that is divisive within the party doesn€t seem to help us in the long term,€ he told the newspaper.