GOP working to lock down votes on McConnell debt deal

Senate Republicans on Wednesday are working to lock down votes within their conference to pave the way for bypassing the filibuster on a debt ceiling vote. 

As part of the agreement, the Senate will take an initial vote Thursday on a bill that prevents Medicare cuts and greenlights a one-time exemption from the filibuster for a subsequent debt ceiling bill.

At least 10 GOP senators will be needed to get the legislation that eases the way for the simple-majority debt ceiling vote through the Senate. 

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GOP leadership is feeling confident that they’ll be able to round up the votes. 

But they aren’t there yet. Asked if he was saying they currently had 10 GOP “yes” votes locked in or that they would have 10 GOP votes by the time the vote started, Thune quipped with a laugh: “Well, it’s the same right?.” 

Eleven GOP senators previously helped advance a short-term debt hike in early October. But GOP leaders won’t be able to lean on the exact same mash up of Republicans. 

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Hogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE (R-Ky.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform How a nice-guy South Dakota senator fell into a Trump storm Democrats: Don't reject GOP offer to fix electoral count law MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 GOP senator, Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntJohnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection The end of orphanages starts with family strengthening programs MORE (R-Mo.), the No. 4 GOP senator, and John CornynJohn CornynAll hostages free, safe after hours-long standoff at Texas synagogue: governor McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  MORE (R-Texas), a close McConnell ally, are expected to support the procedural bill. 

But Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMcConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection Biden's court picks face fierce GOP opposition MORE (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, hasn’t yet said how he will vote. He was one of the 11 GOP senators who helped advance the debt hike in October. 

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Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoLobbying world Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  Like it or not, all roads forward for Democrats go through Joe Manchin MORE (R-W.Va.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators to meet with Ukraine president to reaffirm US support JD Vance raises more than million in second fundraising quarter for Ohio Senate bid Cleveland Plain Dealer urges Portman to reconsider retirement MORE (R-Ohio), who were both “yes” votes in October, are similarly mum. Portman said he hadn’t decided, while Capito indicated that she was waiting until the vote to make her position known. 

“I’m just going to wait and see what happens tomorrow. …I’ve made the decision,” Capito said. 

Asked if she was waiting to see if leadership needed her vote, Capito added: “No, no, no.” 

Sens. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyNegotiators report progress toward 2022 spending deal Johnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence Alabama GOP gears up for fierce Senate primary clash MORE (R-Ala.) and Mike RoundsMike RoundsSome in GOP begin testing party's lockstep loyalty to Trump Trump to make election claims center stage in Arizona Fed's Brainard faces GOP pressure on climate stances MORE (R-S.D.), who were also among the 11 GOP senators who helped in October, said they would vote no on Thursday or were leaning toward voting no, respectively. 

Republicans had initially voiced hope on Tuesday that tying the rule setting up the simple majority debt vote to preventing Medicare cuts could help them shore up more support from within the Senate Republican caucus. 

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But GOP leadership on Wednesday predicted that it wouldn’t move the needle too much and that the number of GOP senators who help advance the debt deal on Thursday will be close to the same number from October. 

"Whether or not it is additive in terms of the vote total, hard to say. If it is, just slightly. I don't think there's going to be a big impact,” he said. 

A second GOP senator predicted that the number of GOP “yes” votes wouldn’t get into the high teens, but that the Medicare issue could win them over an additional handful. 

There are Republicans outside of the 11 GOP senators who helped advance the October debt hike that are viewed as potential “yes” votes on Thursday. 

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenators to meet with Ukraine president to reaffirm US support US budget deficit narrows sharply US lawmakers weigh new COVID-19 stimulus funding for businesses MORE (R-Miss.), who voted no in early October, but is viewed as a potential yes vote for Thursday’s vote and told reporters on Tuesday that ‘we’re moving in the right direction.” 

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  Biden's court picks face fierce GOP opposition MORE (R-N.C.) indicated that he was continuing to study it, but that he thought it accomplished the same goal as reconciliation because it forces Democrats to ultimately raise the debt ceiling on their own and to a specific number. 

“I feel like we’ve come up with something that’s very similar to what we were talking about earlier over the summer in terms of reconciliation,” Tillis said. 

Thune said that leadership is looking beyond just the 11 “yes” votes from October as they round up support for Thursday’s vote. 

“There’s some different combinations than what we saw last time,” he said.