House GOP support builds for Speaker Boehner’s debt bill

Support for House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) debt plan built Wednesday as GOP leaders urged their members to fall in line ahead of a Thursday vote on the measure. 

Though it remains unclear whether they have the 217 votes needed for House passage, Boehner and other leaders voiced confidence that the tide was moving in their direction, one day after a negative Congressional Budget Office score forced them to find more spending cuts for the bill.

ADVERTISEMENT
Opponents of the Boehner measure, in contrast, sounded less confident that it would be defeated on Wednesday.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the conservative head of the Republican Study Committee, said Tuesday that Boehner would not have the votes but declined to repeat that assertion Wednesday.

“I don’t know about that today,” said Jordan, who came under fire at a closed-door conference meeting for a staffer's email urging conservative groups to lobby specific members against Boehner's plan. “I just know I am against the bill.”

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said he’d now support the measure, and Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) all said they were leaning toward “yes” after the conference meeting.

The members described Boehner’s plan, now set for a floor vote Thursday, as the best available option before the Treasury Departments Aug. 2 deadline for raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

Boehner said he ordered GOP lawmakers to "get your ass in line" behind his debt proposal during an interview Wednesday on a conservative radio show.

"My goal is to continue to work with all our members so we get them to the point where they say 'yes,'" Boehner said on Laura Ingraham's radio show.

Members exiting the meeting said Boehner told Republicans they had come to Washington to govern, suggesting a hike to the debt ceiling could not be avoided. He also criticized a rival plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), which would become the most likely legislative alternative if Boehner’s measure were defeated in the House.

Boehner told Republicans his bill had a strong chance of becoming law if approved, telling his conference the Senate would fold “like a cheap suit,” according to a GOP source.

Lummis said lawmakers heard a presentation at the closed-door meeting by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the advantages of the Boehner plan. Other members spoke in favor of it.

The whip effort has been hampered by the fact that the final bill text still was not available for the meeting. The Congressional Budget Office reported Tuesday it would save only $850 billion over 10 years instead of the $1.2 trillion leaders had claimed, and McCarthy said lawmakers planned to add additional spending cuts, which could bolster GOP support.

The bill is being reworked so the cut in spending exceeds the debt-ceiling increase, fulfilling a promise Boehner made in the spring. The draft bill released late Monday night allowed an initial debt-ceiling increase of $900 billion.

House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declined to provide a specific vote count, but gave The Hill an upbeat note on his whipping efforts.

“It’s growing every day,” McCarthy said.

While Boehner and other GOP leaders were picking up support, a large number of Republicans remain undecided. According to a Whip List maintained by The Hill, 18 Republicans are either against the Boehner plan or are leaning toward “no,” while another 22 members are undecided.

Democrats are whipping against the measure, and it is unclear whether Republicans can count on any support from the House’s minority party.

A number of undecided Republican members, including Reps. Stephen Fincher (Tenn.), Kevin Yoder (Kan.), Ben Quayle (Ariz.) and Joe Barton (Texas), said they could not pledge support until the final bill comes out.

But Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who both have said they oppose Boehner’s bill, said House leaders were aggressively whipping and they thought it would have enough votes to pass.

Reed, a member of the conservative RSC, had been undecided but said he now supports the Boehner plan.

“I have definitely come to the realization in D.C. that given the Senate, given the president, this is not going to be a one-battle type of situation, this is going to be a long drawn-out process,” he said.

Farenthold had been leaning toward “no” and said the “Cut, Cap and Balance” measure approved by the House, which would have required $6 billion in spending cuts and approval of a balanced-budget amendment, was preferable. On Wednesday, he said Boehner’s legislation was the best thing on the table now that “cut, cap and balance” had been defeated in the Senate.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) wants to see changes but also said more and more members were supporting the plan.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), an outspoken conservative and Tea Party Movement favorite who is supporting Boehner’s measure, was confident it would be approved.

“I'd almost put my retirement check on it,” he said.

This story was posted at 11:52 a.m. and updated at 2:02 p.m.

Cristina Marcos contributed to this story.