House Republicans will meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss their options to move forward on a short-term bill to fund the federal government that their party failed to pass a day earlier.
House GOP leadership aides said the Republican Conference will be presented with two options: Either they revote on the continuing resolution that includes offsets to disaster-relief spending and force their membership to get in line for the 218 votes required for it to pass, or they move instead on a clean CR with no spending offsets that will bring Democrats on board but adhere less to the GOP’s fiscal principles.
“They can vote no, but what they are in essence doing is voting to spend more money, because that is exactly what will happen,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.
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The 48 Republicans who voted against the CR on Wednesday are chafing GOP leaders by thwarting attempts to get their votes because the CR adheres to a spending agreement worked out with the White House in August during the debt-ceiling negotiations that is higher than House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan approved by the House.
Boehner was described as "spitting nails" during a closed-door member meeting on Wednesday, and his harsh talk demonstrated that the usually unflappable speaker is reaching something close to a breaking point with his internally divided conference.
Those close to Boehner said there is a growing anger in the leadership that some in the freshman class and other intractable conservatives pay no mind to the legislative dangers of abandoning leadership—especially at a time when Democrats feel as if they and President Obama are fighting for their political lives.
Top GOP leadership aides said Boehner knew the stopgap bill would fail and wanted to prove to the Republicans who defected how their actions would force party leaders to negotiate with Democrats to win passage of the must-pass bill. A government shutdown is not an acceptable alternative to GOP leaders, a message Boehner reiterated on Thursday. “There’s no threat of government shutdown—let’s just get this out there,” he said.
In private, Boehner has grown tired of what he dismissively calls the "know-it-alls who have all the right answers." Boehner knew what a defeat would mean—a more costly spending bill, one that provides more emergency disaster relief and contains fewer budget offsets.
As one top leadership aide said: "Boehner is more than willing to accept a short-term defeat to achieve a longer-term goal." So what's the longer-term goal? It appears to be showing Republicans who oppose leadership that divisions not only create low-level political chaos and bad media coverage, they undermine GOP policy goals by increasing the leverage of the Democratic minority.
To that end, House leadership aides said leaders were leaning toward moving a clean CR with Democratic votes in order to get it through the Senate and allow Congress to recess in time for its scheduled break next week.
This article appears in the September 22, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.