Rank and file skeptical of Boehner plan

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) faces a tough sell in winning support from his conference for his proposal to hike the debt ceiling in two steps.

Many members leaving a tense GOP conference meeting Monday said they could not commit to supporting his plan to raise the limit before Aug. 2. Boehner’s measure is expected to get a vote on Wednesday.

Boehner must convince both his conference and outside conservative groups that his proposal is not a retreat from the "cut, cap and balance" plan, which holds broad support in the caucus but failed to pass in the Senate.

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“It’s not 'cut, cap and balance,' but it’s based on the principles of 'cut, cap and balance,' ” Boehner said Monday at a press conference.

Earlier, Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, stood up at the closed-door GOP conference meeting and pressed leadership to stick with the "cut, cap and balance" plan.

Coming out of the meeting, leading conservatives including Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), leader of the freshman class Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Jeff Landry (R-La.) and Scott Rigell (R-Va.) all said that they would have to study the plan further before committing to support it.

Rigell said that he will be looking closely at the level of discretionary cuts for 2012 since he does not trust promises that more cuts will be made down the road. He signaled that he would be open to only requiring a vote on a balanced-budget amendment rather than full passage.

The Boehner plan would save $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years and raise the debt ceiling by $1 trillion immediately. The proposal caps discretionary spending over 10 years and provides a mechanism to automatically cut spending if those caps are breached.

The plan would require the House and Senate to vote on a balanced-budget amendment after Oct. 1 but before the end of the year. The "cut, cap and balance" plan, however, would require actual passage of a balanced-budget amendment before the debt ceiling could be raised.

Scott said the leadership explained in the meeting that it is difficult to require passage of a balance budget amendment, and said he doesn’t know whether he can support a debt ceiling increase that does not require passage of the amendment to the Constitution.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declined to say whether he has a majority of his caucus in support of the plan when asked at a press conference. Instead he said the plan reflects the principles of "cut, cap and balance."

Many conservative groups immediately criticized the Boehner plan.


“Based on preliminary reports, we are skeptical this proposal rises to the occasion,” Heritage Action’s CEO Michael Needham said.

The Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition, which includes most Tea Party groups as well as the National Taxpayers Union and Club for Growth, also opposed it.

“As we stated this morning, Cut, Cap and Balance is not merely a legislative framework, it is a series of principles. Principles are not subject to negotiation. Unfortunately, the Speaker’s plan falls short of meeting these principles,” the coalition said in a statement.

It urged the 39 House members who signed a "cut, cap and balance" pledge to vote against the Boehner plan.