By Molly K. Hooper and Erik Wasson - 07/25/11 09:43 PM EDT
The chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee wasted little time announcing his opposition to the House GOP leadership's two-step plan to raise the debt ceiling.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who stood — visibly uncomfortable — next to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) during Monday's announcement of the plan, released a statement saying he would vote "no" on the measure.
Conservative lawmakers Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) also came out against Boehner's plan.
Jordan argued that his leadership team should stand behind a measure that the House approved on a party-line vote last week — the "cut, cap and balance" bill that failed in the Senate.
“The credit rating agencies have been clear that no matter what happens with the debt limit, the U.S. will lose its AAA credit rating unless we produce a credible plan to reduce the debt by trillions of dollars. Cut, Cap, and Balance is the only plan on the table that meets this standard. Only a Balanced Budget Amendment will actually solve our debt problems," Jordan stated.
A number of fiscal conservatives in the House appeared to keep their powder dry until text of Boehner's measure was available for reading later Monday afternoon. Leadership did not have the full legislative text for lawmakers at a 2 p.m. closed-door conference meeting on the blueprint of the bill.
Boehner's proposal would raise the debt limit in two stages, but passage of the deal was not contingent on sending a constitutional balanced-budget amendment to the states (which would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers). Jordan has led the fight for a balanced-budget amendment in the House.
In Monday's press conference, Boehner explained that he too feels the plan is flawed, but said the imperfections are a result of negotiations with Senate Democrats.
“This is legislation reflects a bipartisan negotiation over the weekend with our colleagues in the Senate, and as a result of this bipartisan negotiation I would call this plan less than perfect,” he said.
Participants in the GOP conference meeting told The Hill that support for Boehner’s plan was “fluid."
One conservative said Boehner’s two-step plan has “potential” to gain support from wary hard-line lawmakers.
“I would not characterize anything as having the body moving in any particular direction yet; people are still listening to it and consuming what is taking place,” a source observed following the private meeting.
The source added that “it’s not yelling or screaming or throwing things … yet.”
Former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) conceded that there was a “great concern” regarding the portion of the plan that would relegate entitlement and tax reform to a commission.
“That is a very legitimate concern,” Cole told reporters following the meeting.
“On the other hand, it’s not like we won’t have the opportunity to make the final decision, it’s not like we won’t have strong voices on the committee, and the political reality is we’re not going to get everything we want as long as there’s divided government in the Congress and a Democratic president on top of that,” Cole said.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) a leading fiscal conservative in the House, didn’t rule out supporting the Boehner plan, but said he wouldn’t commit until he could read the legislative text.
“This is the first I’ve considered it, I’m looking at it. I intend to take a look at it very carefully over the next several days,” McClintock told The Hill.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declined to say in Monday's press conference whether he can get a majority of the caucus behind the plan, and invited Democrats to join the effort in passing the plan.
“We have just laid it out to our members. We believe we laid out the position that we would not raise [the ceiling] if we did not have cuts and we would not have tax increases. Those are our principles and that’s what we are doing,” he said.
“When we did 'cut, cap and balance' it was not just Republicans — it was a bipartisan bill,” he said. Five Blue Dog Democrats voted for "cut, cap and balance," which would have required at least $6 trillion in spending cuts over a decade with no tax increases. He then invited “all Democrats who want to join with us” to do so.