Centrist GOP revolt fizzles

A push from more centrist House Republicans to upend the party’s latest plan to fund the government and target President Obama’s healthcare law fizzled out on Monday, gaining the support of only two moderate GOP lawmakers.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), one of those two Republicans, said that Speaker John Boehner had urged the House GOP conference to stay united on leadership’s latest plan ahead of an evening procedural vote.

The GOP plan, which would delay ObamaCare’s individual mandate for one year and target subsidies for lawmakers and staff, cleared that procedural hurdle and now faces another vote before the measure heads to the Senate.

“John was speaking to people personally – he made a personal appeal to a lot of people,” King said, adding that the Speaker’s message was “trust him. It will work out.”

“I have no hard feelings toward the Speaker at all,” King added. “He wants the government to stay open.”

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King and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), the other more centrist Republican to vote against the rule, have been pressing for the House to pass a clean short-term spending measure.

Four conservative GOP lawmakers – Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Texas) and Steve King (Iowa) – also voted against leadership in the procedural vote. Several other more moderate Republicans waited until the end of the vote to back the leadership plan.

King had said earlier on Monday that around 20 or 25 of his GOP colleagues were against approving another measure that would be immediately rejected by Senate Democrats and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

But with Boehner calling on Republicans to stick together, King said Congress would be in for a long night, with perhaps at least one more volley left for each chamber.

“If this was a secret ballot, they’d have three-fifths, two-thirds voting to end all of this,” King said. “There’s just a lot of pressure on people.”

Still, it was clear that the leadership’s latest plan had brought more GOP divisions to the surface.

King called Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been helping to lead the charge to defund or delay ObamaCare in the government spending debate, a “con man who knew this was going nowhere and sold a false bill of goods.”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who also has been highly critical of the conservative wing of the House GOP, ended up backing the leadership plan in the procedural vote. But he remained unhappy about what he saw as conservatives backing leadership in the corner.

“I’m going to jump off the cliff,” Nunes said. But he added that, if the latest GOP gambit did fail, some of his colleagues could then “go back to kindergarten and learn how to count. That’d be a good start.”

But while Nunes, King and other Republicans said they’re ready to vote for a clean spending bill, conservative lawmakers said that idea was a nonstarter.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) stressed to reporters that conservatives had already revolted against a plan earlier this month that would have allowed the Senate to strip anti-ObamaCare language from a spending measure and send it to Obama’s desk.

“I think there’s kind of the assumption that this is not what John Boehner would want to do. We were in conference today. It was John Boehner would like to do,” Huelskamp said. “This is not just a play. He firmly believes what he says, that the American people want to keep the government open, and they don’t want ObamaCare.” 

Selim Koru contributed.