It began with an exasperated, wits-end King on June 6. One day removed from the RSC summit, King began visiting his colleagues — the same ones who were silent during that meeting — and asking for their signatures to force another gathering. This one would be longer and more thorough, he told them, involving the entire conference. Soon he had collected the 50 signatures needed to trigger what he and other lawmakers would later describe as a “family meeting.”

On June 12, a week after King launched his petition drive, Boehner’s leadership team scheduled a July 10 special conference meeting to discuss immigration. (Leadership aides insist Boehner had long been planning such a session.)

With less than one month to organize the opposition, King went to work. He checked back with the conservative members who had signed his petition, asking them to attend an “anti-amnesty” rally the following Wednesday on the East Lawn of the Capitol. King wanted to bring his coalition out of the shadows, and perhaps even more, he wanted the grassroots opposition that was simmering beneath the political surface to be seen from the windows of the Capitol Building.

As King strategized behind the scenes, Boehner began feeling the heat in public. On June 17, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., told a radio show that Boehner “should be removed as speaker” if he brought an immigration bill to the floor without the support of a majority of House Republicans, a violation of the so-called “Hastert Rule.” At a conference meeting the next day, Boehner promised his members that he would do no such thing. He also emphasized that immigration proceedings would go through regular order, with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., working through a series of single-issue bills.