Hoyer: Few Dems will back Boehner

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) on Tuesday predicted Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) debt-ceiling proposal would win scant support from Democrats.

Hoyer declined to say whether Boehner's bill could clear the House, but stated that "very few" Democrats would support the measure. 

“I dont know what votes Mr. Boehner can or cannot get,” Hoyer said. “I hope that it fails.” 

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Its unclear whether GOP leaders can rally the 218 votes they’ll need to pass the lower chamber. Conservatives had favored the Republicans’ “cut, cap and balance” approach, which passed the House this month but failed later in the Senate. A number of those conservatives have come out in opposition to the Boehner bill. 

“I want a solution, not a deal,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), one such opponent, said Monday. 

With conservative Republicans vowing to oppose Boehner's measure, GOP leaders need every Democratic vote they can get. Five centrist Democrats — Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.) and Jim Matheson (Utah) — had voted for the GOP’s “cut, cap and balance” bill, but Hoyer rejected the notion that it was a bipartisan proposal.

“There was no enthusiasm for that piece of legislation on our side of the aisle — period, none, zero, zip,” he said. 

It's unclear whether any of the five will vote for Boehner's new measure.

The Speaker's plan — introduced just before midnight Monday — would hike the debt ceiling by up to $1 trillion, allowing the government to pay its bills until early next year, when Congress would have to revisit the issue. It also would impose $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.

Hoyer slammed the proposal and urged Congress to pass an alternative bill proposed by Senate Democrats.

Hoyer said the Senate bill, sponsored by Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), is “not the plan that I would have been for — not the plan that I like.” But, he added, it was far preferable to the Boehner package.

“The Reid plan is the way to get out of [the current impasse],” Hoyer said. “Reid incorporates everything that [the Republicans] asked for. Period.”

Hoyer predicted that “very close to all” House Democrats would support the Reid plan if it were to reach the House floor. But some senior Democrats aren't holding their breath that House GOP leaders will allow it to be considered.

“The point about Sen. Reid’s plan is that we’ll never get to vote on it,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Monday evening.

Many GOP leaders, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), had opposed a short-term fix as recently as a few weeks ago, but now are insisting on that strategy.

Hoyer on Monday charged GOP leaders with flip-flopping solely to force President Obama to endorse an unpopular policy just months before the 2012 election.

“It's about presidential politics — trying to make the president look bad — and I think its undermining America in the process,” Hoyer said.

By contrast, Reid is pushing a $2.7 trillion increase to the debt ceiling to set government spending through the end of 2012. 

The GOP bill would create a bipartisan, bicameral committee to come up with a strategy for reducing the deficit by $1.8 trillion. In addition, Boehners bill includes a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution that would bar deficit spending. 

Many Democrats are grumbling about the absence of tax-revenue increases in the Reid proposal. Hoyer on Tuesday joined their ranks, but also suggested that revenue increases would be forthcoming. 

“You cannot solve this problem without revenues, period,” he said. The House is expected to vote on the Boehner bill as early as Wednesday.


—This story was updated at 2:28 p.m.

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