Cantor: We’ve got the budget votes

Republicans are rallying around the budget deal their leaders struck with President Obama and Senate Democrats. 

While there will certainly be defections, GOP leaders expressed confidence on Tuesday that their rank-and-file will overwhelmingly support the budget agreement. 

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Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) predicted Tuesday that the House will pass the fiscal 2011 spending bill on Thursday with “strong Republican support.” He went so far as to suggest the measure would pass the House even if every Democrat opposed it, which is unlikely.

At his weekly pen-and-pad briefing, Cantor expressed that he was not completely satisfied with the accord reached last Friday to cut $39.9 billion in spending from current levels, but characterized it as the “best deal” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could get.

While GOP officials declined to estimate how many House Republicans will vote no, they are optimistic the figure will be far lower than 54, the number of GOP members who broke ranks on an earlier stopgap spending bill. 

That vote hurt Boehner’s leverage, and it’s especially important to the Speaker and his lieutenants that there is no rerun — especially going into the next high-stakes negotiation on raising the nation’s debt limit. 

There were good signs for Boehner on Tuesday. Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told ABC’s “Top Line” program that he and many of his Republican colleagues in their first term will back the bipartisan deal. 

Meanwhile, Republicans who have been outspoken in calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, including Rep. Joe Pitts (Pa.), also indicated Tuesday they will vote yes, even though the House-Senate pact does not include that controversial policy rider. Pitts was among the 54 “no” votes last month. 

Other Republicans among that group of 54 were holding their fire on Tuesday, with their spokesmen saying they are still reviewing the final package. They include: Reps. Denny Rehberg (Mont.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and Tim Walberg (Mich.). Rehberg has announced he is running for the Senate, aiming to defeat Sen. Jon Tester (D).

Some Republican legislators who previously threatened to oppose any budget deal unless it defunded the healthcare reform law have not publicly indicated how they will vote on Thursday. They include Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), who said on March 14, “If we do not act, ObamaCare will be implemented on our watch. We must not let that happen.”

However, some high-profile Republicans will oppose the deal, including Reps. Ron Paul (Texas), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Steve King (Iowa) and Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio). 

Jordan is a strong proponent of the House-passed language on Planned Parenthood, a provision that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Obama dubbed a deal-breaker.

Jordan also said the $39.9 billion in spending cuts is insufficient. 

Cantor said he understood the frustration of Jordan and other conservatives.

“I know that Jim Jordan and others are frustrated. I’m frustrated too,” he said. 

“The House position was $61 billion. This is the best deal we could have gotten given the situation we were served up by the Democrats being in charge of the Senate and the White House,” Cantor explained to reporters in his Capitol office.

Some conservatives might hold their noses and vote for the bill.

Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), a former RSC chief who is now GOP conference policy chairman, indicated he’ll support the spending bill, though he said he hasn’t ruled out opposing the measure.

Cantor said that, based on indications from Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the measure will pass.

“From the discussions I’ve had with him, he’s indicated that there’s strong Republican support and we’re going to pass this bill with Republicans,” Cantor said.

If there are two dozen or more Republican defections, that could force the GOP to depend on Democratic votes. It’s expected that the spending measure will attract some Democratic votes, but they won’t come easily, given cuts in the measure to education, healthcare and other programs traditionally cherished by the party.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said he was unsure whether he’ll support the Obama-backed deal.

Cantor said, “Certainly, we’ll always ask for them,” referring to Democratic votes.

Even though there has been a lot of attention paid to the Tea Party reaction to the spending measure, the higher amount of defections may occur on the left.

Forty-two House Democrats opposed the one-week emergency stopgap bill on Friday night, compared to 28 Republicans.

Democrats who plan to vote no include Reps. Judy Chu (Calif.), Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.), Keith Ellison (Minn.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.). 

At press time, the White House put out its official statement on the bill, claiming it "makes the largest annual spending cuts in the nation's history, while at the same time investing in America's future in significant ways."

Cristina Marcos and Morgan Spencer contributed to this article.