House Speaker John Boehner’s tough “get back in line” message to his Republican troops appeared to be working on Thursday as the House prepared to vote on raising the debt limit.
Tea party opposition was melting away as the speaker, known for his laid back, consensual style, showed he can brandish the stick as well the carrot when he needs to.
But still, few were predicting the outcome of Thursday afternoon’s vote, which is seen as too close to call. At least 18 House Republicans were still expressing opposition and without support from Democrats, Boehner can’t lose more than 23 from his own party.
“I didn’t put my neck on the line and go toe to toe with Obama to not have an army behind me,” Boehner said in a private party meeting in the House Wednesday, several congressmen told The New York Times. “This is the bill. . . . Get your ass in line.”
Boehner has House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on his side. The House GOP’s No. 2, who at times during negotiations seemed to be opposing the Speaker, blasted opponents of the plan in the meeting. “I’m sick and tired of seeing Republicans on TV attacking other Republicans,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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Influential Florida Rep. Allen West was one of the first tea party-affiliated freshmen to change his mind and support the Boehner bill. West told Fox News’ Neal Cavuto, “We can sit around and we can kvetch about coming up with the 100 percent plan, but we are wasting time.
“Does it have everything that I would like to see there? Absolutely not,” added West. “But it gets to the core of us making sure that we don’t have any default on our debt — we do start to cut spending, we do cap spending,”
Other freshmen who were swept into office last year on the tea party wave soon fell in line too.
|House freshmen who back the plan at a morning press conference today. (AP Photo)
Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma put it in the words of a true tea partyer.
“I like tea sweet enough to stand the spoon up in it,” he told The New York Times. “This is not super-sweet tea. But it is not unsweetened, either.”
Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio said, “It's the best deal we can get." Rep Tim Griffin of Arkansas said the mood was shifting among the newly elected group. He said the Boehner plan “is consistent with our principles and doesn’t raise taxes.”
North Carolina’s Rep. Renee Elmers said her opinion of Boehner had changed since she took her seat in the House in January. She said many tea partyers had thought that the Speaker was an impediment rather than an ally.
“When I got here I realized that wasn’t the case at all,” she told The Times. “I was told he wasn’t conservative. He is conservative, and that’s what I tell other people in our discussions. He has been great to all the freshmen.”
But there were still some hold outs among the 87 freshmen Republicans, who posed the greatest threat to the Boehner bill. Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois indicated that he was still not swayed.
And there is opposition among Republicans who have been in the House for longer than seven months. One hold-out is Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Study Committee. “I’m still opposed,” he said.
Two of the three presidential candidates in Congress, Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas also oppose the Boehner bill, but the third, Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan said he now supports it. “It’s the only responsible thing to do,” said McCotter.
Boehner has restructured his earlier deficit reduction plan to generate $65 billion in additional savings. The Congressional Budget Office calculates that his revised program would strip $915 billion from the budget deficit over the next decade, compared to $850 million in his original blueprint.
His goal is to combine a $1 trillion debt limit increase with matching spending cuts.
“We do not have the votes yet,” Boehner acknowledged in a closed meeting of House Republicans Thursday morning, sources told Politico. “But today is the day. We’re going to get it passed.”
His confidence certainly isn’t based on thin air.
Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana and John Campbell of California reportedly announced their support for Boehner’s plan in the Thursday meeting. “My ideology drives me, but it doesn’t overrule my ability to think,” Campbell said.
A vote on the plan is now set for Thursday evening, around 6 p.m. Whatever happens, the bill is almost certain to fail in the Senate where Democrats are unanimously against it as are some Republicans.
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