By Bob Cusack - 07/28/11 09:49 AM EDT
House Republicans who signed a "cut, cap and balance" pledge are expected to decide the fate of Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) new debt and deficit-reduction bill.
Thirty-nine House Republicans embraced the pledge, which vows to oppose any bill that raises the debt ceiling unless it calls for major cuts, spending caps and a balanced-budget amendment.
Then there are 14 others who have not said how they will vote. Republican leaders must convince most of these members to vote yes, or the bill will die on the House floor Thursday, according to an analysis by The Hill.
If every Democrat votes against the Boehner legislation, Republican leaders need to minimize defections to 23 in order to pass it.
The vote is, without doubt, the most important roll call of Boehner's reign as Speaker. Passage would boost Boehner and his colleagues. A defeat would represent a devastating blow to the Ohio Republican.
According to The Hill's whip list, there are now 22 Republicans who are planning to vote no, or are leaning no on the bill. Boehner and his lieutenants have little wiggle room because many of those 22 members are firm "nos."
Boehner has made the case that his new bill adheres to the "cut, cap and balance" bill that passed the House last week. But others disagree strongly.
FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group headed by former Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), is lobbying against the Boehner bill, arguing it violates the pledge "because it neither cuts nor caps nor balances federal spending."
The 14 GOP members who have signed the pledge and are publicly undecided on the bill that will hit the floor Thursday are:
Joe Barton (Texas)
Dan Benishek (Mich.)
Dan Burton (Ind.)
Trent Franks (Ariz.)
Randy Hultgren (Ill.)
Raúl Labrador (Idaho)
Jeff Landry (La.)
Tom Latham (Iowa)
Tom Marino (Pa.)
Jeff Miller (Fla.)
Jean Schmidt (Ohio)
David Schweikert (Ariz.)
Tim Scott (S.C.)
Joe Wilson (S.C.)
Seven of these members are freshmen, and at least one of them (Scott) has inched closer to a yes vote. Hultgren, Landry and Latham are expected to face incumbents in 2012 because of redistricting — that doesn't help GOP leaders.
There is more bad news for Boehner: Four of the 14 defected on a high-profile continuing resolution in March and again on the final 2011 fiscal budget deal. The four are Barton, Labrador, Schmidt and Wilson.
Barton ran briefly against Boehner for minority leader following the 2006 elections. Schmidt hails from Boehner's home state.