"The White House just couldn't let this go"

When the MacArthur-Meadows deal looked close to being done, Priebus called a White House meeting with Ryan and asked him to cancel a looming two-week congressional recess in order to finish the bill.

The meeting quickly went off the rails, however, when Ryan refused. He argued that members needed space before the House took another crack at repealing Obamacare.

“There will be calls for you to resign,” Priebus told Ryan, according to two people in the room. (Another source familiar with the conversation but not in the room said Priebus’ comments were not aimed at Ryan but at Republicans in general.)

In a way, it undermined his position. Other White House officials looked for ways to pressure holdouts — targeting former aides, business leaders, current lawmakers and others back in their districts who could call and pressure them to get to yes.

But Priebus’ harping on Ryan was bizarre, senior GOP aides thought. Several White House officials and Capitol Hill insiders believed they reflected a deep fear of losing his own job.

“How could you take him seriously doing that?” one of them said.