WASHINGTON -- Can Mark Meadows and Charlie Dent, two of the House Republicans' most visible, most vocal ideological gladiators, get along? Trillions of federal dollars depend on the answer.
Meadows, R-N.C., heads the take-no-prisoners Freedom Caucus, which includes many congressmen whose refusal to agree on budget issues helped lead to the partial 2013 government shutdown. This time the group, believed to include about 40 members, wants significant cuts in entitlement programs, meaning veterans, farmers, the elderly and others could feel the pain.
Dent, R-Pa., is a leader of the Tuesday Group, a band of about 20 center-right Republicans who reject that approach.
So far, the two are friendly but not necessarily fast friends. They're affable, but they're also adamant. They're well aware that past efforts at bringing the two forces together hasn't ended well.
But their styles and personalities suggest they can do business with one another, offering hope that Republicans can resolve their internal differences and avoid a shutdown once the fiscal year begins October 1.
Finding common ground won't be easy, since the biggest impasse involves how much money can be cut -- and who back home would suffer the most.
Politics provides a compelling reason to get along. The GOP is striving to prove it can govern after voters awarded Republicans control of the House of Representatives, the Senate and White House in last year's election
"There's significant risk for the Republican Party in the midterm elections" if it doesn't pass a budget, fails to end Obamacare, and doesn't revamp the nation's tax code, said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Inside Elections. "They still have a divide in ideology and strategy and tactics that's hindering their ability to move legislation along."
Meadows and Dent, both 57, do have a history of finding enough in common to keep legislation moving.
"I like Charlie," Meadows told reporters before a Freedom Caucus meeting last week. "When Charlie makes an argument, I wish someone else in the Tuesday Group would make it because Charlie makes it in such a better way than some of his colleagues might make it, which makes it harder for me to go against and defend."