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 BoehnerGOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi Stripping opportunity from DC's children 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 BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerGOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi Stripping opportunity from DC's children 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 GohmertFive takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony Protesters shut down Greene-Gaetz Jan. 6 event Cheney calls Gaetz, Greene DOJ protest a 'disgrace' 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 Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' 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 ScottSenate passes bill to award congressional gold medal to first Black NHL player Scott: 'There is hope' for police reform bill Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe MORE (R-S.C.) said on Fox News he is a no, Rep. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonProgressive activist to challenge Joe Wilson in South Carolina All House Republicans back effort to force floor vote on 'born alive' bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans MORE (R-S.C.) said like other members in his state delegation he is a no, and Rep. Scott GarrettErnest (Scott) Scott GarrettOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 Biz groups take victory lap on Ex-Im Bank Export-Import Bank back to full strength after Senate confirmations 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 Mason ReidWarner backing 'small carve-out' on filibuster for voting rights Senate hopefuls embrace nuking filibuster Biden fails to break GOP 'fever' 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 FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots 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 AmashAmash warns of turning lawmakers like Cheney into 'heroes' Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Biden: 'Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK' 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 BrooksDOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit Ex-Sen. Jones rips Mo Brooks over 'irony' remark on Texas Democrats getting COVID-19 Justice in legal knot in Mo Brooks, Trump case MORE (Ala.)
Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Arizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems 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 BachmannBoehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Boehner finally calls it as he sees it 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.