By Erik Wasson and Russell Berman - 03/22/12 08:03 PM EDT
Conservative House Republicans on Thursday said they support the 2013 budget resolution, leaving GOP leaders increasingly confident they will be able to pass the measure on the floor next week.
A day after the budget was approved in committee by a single vote (with two Republicans voting no), prominent members of the conservative Republican Study Committee said they back the resolution crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
RSC member Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), who also sits on the Budget Committee, said earlier this week that he might vote against the budget on the floor. But he ultimately backed the measure during the budget panel’s Wednesday markup, he said, after winning concessions from Ryan on increasing the panel’s oversight powers.
“Paul and I talked, and he agreed to make some additional accommodations to the RSC,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney’s vote carries some sway.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said he is leaning toward voting yes, in part because of Mulvaney’s influence.
“I am a big Paul Ryan fan, and Mick Mulvaney voted ‘yes’ to it, and Mick is somebody that I look to for guidance on budget issues,” Gowdy said, “so I wouldn’t say they had me at ‘hello,’ but I will be reading it with an eye towards hoping to support it.”
While a leadership aide said no formal whip count has been done, the support from key conservatives has GOP leaders feeling confident.
“The Ryan budget will pass,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), “and the House will once again do the fundamental job of all elected officials to have a budget to pass, and I hope the Senate would use the same direction and at least even propose one.
“The budget will pass as is.”
If McCarthy’s prediction comes true, passage of the resolution will be the first clear sign of unity in the House GOP conference in months. Intra-party battles on high-profile bills have marked Rep. John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) tenure as Speaker. Last April, there were 54 GOP defections on the bill that averted a government shutdown; in November, there were 101 such defections on a large spending bill; and 91 Republicans balked last month at the extension of the payroll tax cut.
So GOP leaders have some work to do. Centrist appropriators and conservative RSC members have been squabbling for weeks over the details of the budget, opening up the possibility that leaders at least face a razor-tight vote next week over the united opposition of Democrats.
Appropriators wish to stick to the August debt deal with Senate Democrats and cap discretionary spending in 2013 at $1.047 trillion. RSC members sought $931 billion, and the compromise Ryan budget sets the cap at $1.028 trillion.
Lingering dissatisfaction persists in the GOP conference. Reps. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) and Justin Amash (Mich.) voted against the budget Wednesday during a Budget Committee markup.
But the opposition does not appear to be blossoming into the type of mutiny leaders faced on the August debt deal, the payroll tax cut and transportation measures.
Mulvaney described the votes by Huelskamp and Amash as “principled” stands, but said conservatives won important provisions in the Ryan plan, including the fact that six committees have to come up with $261 billion in cuts by April 27, months before the 2013 spending process is complete.
“By the time Scott Garrett and I get to talk to RSC members, I think you will see RSC members support the bill,” he said. Rep. Garrett (R-N.J.) and Mulvaney head up the RSC’s budget task force.
The RSC will offer its own budget amendment with a 2013 spending cap $97 billion lower than that in the Ryan plan. The RSC plan would balance the budget within 10 years rather than 25, Mulvaney said, adding that most other details will likely resemble Ryan’s plan.
GOP members who have bucked leadership in the past offered indications Thursday that they are falling into line.
Conservative Rep. Trent Franks (Ariz.) said he will vote for the Ryan budget, as will Florida Reps. Dennis Ross and Connie Mack.
Ross predicted there will be more defections than the four members who voted against the last Ryan budget, but that it will pass. McCarthy and his whip team need to minimize defections to about two-dozen to clear the measure through the lower chamber.
“I certainly probably would feel very strong about the RSC budget if it was between the Ryan budget and the RSC budget,” Franks said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the equation.”
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he will “probably” vote for the Ryan plan, and the office of Rep. Steve Pearce said the New Mexico Republican is a “yes” vote.
The budget seems likely to get more “no” votes than last year’s measure, which only four Republicans opposed.
GOP Reps. Jeff Duncan (S.C.), John Fleming (La.) and Jeff Landry (La.) are undecided, and support from some centrist Republicans appears soft.
House Appropriations Committee member Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), for example, said she is undecided.
Freshman Rep. Charles Bass is also on the fence. The centrist New Hampshire Republican noted that the budget had just made it out of committee the night before, and that the GOP conference did not spend much time discussing it at its meeting this week.
But Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), who was undecided Thursday morning, said later in the day that he would vote for it.
— Bernie Becker, Jeremy Herb and Andres Feijoo contributed.