GOP to tweak Boehner debt bill as leaders wrestle to secure more votes

GOP to tweak Boehner debt bill as leaders wrestle to secure more votes

Republican leaders will likely tweak Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election White House strikes back at Bushes over legacy MORE’s (R-Ohio) debt-limit bill as they scramble into the night to win enough votes to send the legislation to the Senate.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told reporters shortly before 10 p.m. that the leadership would likely send the legislation back to the House Rules Committee, indicating that it will be changed before it comes for a floor vote. The expected vote has been delayed by more than four hours as GOP leaders try to persuade recalcitrant members to back John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election White House strikes back at Bushes over legacy MORE’s plan for a short-term increase in the debt ceiling combined with spending cuts.

The majority whip’s office told members they still expect a vote to occur Thursday night.

Throughout Thursday afternoon and evening, Republican lawmakers shuttled in and out of leadership offices. Some, like Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertGOP lawmaker calls for Mueller to be fired in speech on House floor GOP lawmaker calls for Mueller recusal over uranium deal Overnight Finance: Freedom Caucus chair courts Dems on tax reform | House passes .5B disaster relief package | House GOP worries about budget's fate in Senate MORE (R-Texas), said they remained resolutely opposed to Boehner’s bill, while other said they were undecided.

“I think we still have work to do, but we’re gaining,” Walden said.

GOP leaders continued to meet with their members after putting off plans for a vote around 6 p.m.

Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorTop Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling to retire after end of current term A tyranny of the minority is raising your health care costs MORE (R-Va.), said at the time that the vote would occur "a little bit later" than the original 6 p.m. slot. 

More than four hours later, it remained unclear when the vote would take place. 

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Twenty-five House Republicans either plan to vote no or are leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip count. Nearly three dozen more Republicans are publicly undecided, and 10 of them said or suggested on Thursday that they are still on the fence.

Thursday afternoon presented major setbacks to Boehner, who can only afford 23 defections if — as expected — every Democrat votes no. Rep. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottKey differences between the Senate and House tax plans Strange bedfellows on criminal justice reform could offer Trump a legislative win Senate GOP reveals different approach on tax reform MORE (R-S.C.) said on Fox News he is a no, Rep. Joe WilsonJoe WilsonTillerson’s No. 2 faces questions over State cyber closure GOP worries as state Dems outperform in special elections Navy official: Budget, readiness issues led to ship collisions MORE (R-S.C.) said like other members in his state delegation he is a no, and Rep. Scott GarrettErnest (Scott) Scott GarrettOvernight Finance: Trump repeals consumer arbitration rule | GOP scrambles on tax bill | Trump floats repealing ObamaCare mandate in tax bill | Powell told he'll be picked for Fed chair | Fed holds off on rate hike | Bank nominee gets rough reception Manufacturers increase pressure against Ex-Im nominee Garrett Trump bank nominee gets rough reception at confirmation hearing MORE (R-N.J.) said he is still leaning no.

The task is fast becoming mission impossible, where several members will need to change from no to yes. And all the undecideds have to break with Boehner.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidTop Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor GOP in uncharted territory rolling back rules through resolutions MORE (D-Nev.) has said he will immediately move to table Boehner's bill if it passes the lower chamber. Every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus opposes it.

As the House was voting on a separate appropriations bill Thursday afternoon, Boehner shuttled a trio of undecided Republicans — Reps. Chuck Fleishmann (Tenn.), Tom McClintock (Calif.) and Bill Posey (Fla.) — into an office off the House floor for private meetings. Fleischmann subsequently said he will vote yes.

As Posey was leaving, Boehner opened the office door and gave him an enthusiastic handshake in view of a gaggle of reporters watching.

Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Flake on Moore defenders: 'This cannot be who we are' GOP senators raise concerns over tax plan MORE (R-Ariz.) told reporters he was still leaning no on the bill and questioned whether it would be the GOP’s last chance to influence the debt-limit debate. He speculated that the Senate could send Reid’s measure, which he said was similar to Boehner’s proposal, back to the House, and then the House could attach a clean balanced-budget amendment and send it back to the Senate. Such a move would put the ball back in the Senate’s court as Aug. 2 approaches, as well as pressure Democrats to accept a constitutional amendment they have supported in the past. Flake would not say whether he had met privately with Boehner.

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashHouse Judiciary advances warrantless wiretapping reform bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on tax-reform bill Ryan sets record for closing down debate in House: report MORE (R-Mich.), a conservative who frequently votes against the leadership, said he remains opposed to the bill but acknowledged that party leaders had discussed compromises that could win him over. He would not disclose what those changes were and said he had not met personally with Boehner.

The 10 Republican members who indicated on Thursday they are undecided are:

Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), who later said he was leaning toward voting yes.
Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksTemporary status for immigrants shouldn't mean permanent residency Whatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong GOP lawmaker pushes to end sports leagues' tax-exempt status MORE (Ala.)
Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksAdoption tax credit restored after conservative backlash Push to restore adoption credit gains steam Flake's exit gives GOP new hope in Arizona MORE (Ariz.)
Scott Garrett (N.J.)
Randy Hultgren (Ill.)
Timothy Johnson (Ill.)
Tom Marino (Pa.)
Jean Schmidt (Ohio)
Michael Turner (Ohio)
Tim Walberg (Mich.)

Unlike the others, Johnson's office declined to comment. The rest said their bosses were still mulling how to vote.

Republican members who did not return phone calls on Thursday include Reps. Joe Barton (Texas), Dan BenishekDaniel (Dan) Joseph BenishekRepublican groups launch final ad blitz in key House battlegrounds Tea Party class reassesses record Michigan Republican to retire MORE (Mich.), Dan Burton (Ind.) and John Duncan Jr. (Tenn.). All of these members have bucked their leaders at times on high-profile issues, most notably during the fiscal 2011 budget debate.

The problem for Boehner is that most of the no/leaning no votes on The Hill’s list can't be swayed. These include Reps. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBachmann praises Trump as man of faith Tom Petty dies at 66 Bachmann: Muslim immigrants trying to undermine Western civilization MORE (Minn.), Ron Paul (Texas), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Louie Gohmert (Texas) and Steve King (Iowa.).

Franks played a key role in the 2003 Medicare drug vote, which was supposed to last 15 minutes. Leaders held the vote open for nearly three hours, and convinced Franks and then-Rep. Butch Otter (R-Idaho) to switch their no votes to yeses. The bill was subsequently signed into law by then-President George W. Bush, who was woken up to call Franks during the House vote.

—Erik Wasson contributed to this report.