In the high-stakes effort to reduce the federal deficit and raise the debt ceiling, House Republicans drew from a famous Notre Dame football pre-game tradition behind closed doors on Thursday before a potential cliffhanger vote on Speaker John Boehner’s plan. Several attendees described the session as a pep rally of sorts as Boehner sought support to pass his bill.
“Let's go out there and kick the ---- out of them!” shouted Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., according to lawmakers in the room. Members said Kelly brought a Notre Dame football sign reminiscent of the “Play Like A Champion” banner the college players slap before hitting the gridiron.
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However, House Republicans’ brewing enthusiasm about their two-step debt ceiling proposal is short-sighted about the reality that lies ahead. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., with the backing of his entire caucus, opposes the Boehner plan. The Senate is expected to modify the bill to ensure greater protections to ensure the debt ceiling is raised again early next year. Neither the White House nor Democrats are willing to have the same debate in an election year, and the White House remains concerned that Boehner’s plan will not do enough to prevent the ongoing threat of a credit rating downgrade.
The vote is expected on the floor after the markets close, likely between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday. Vote counts are still uncertain, including one by National Journal that finds 19 Republican members remain opposed to the plan with the critical threshold being 24 sending it down to defeat if no Democrats support it. House GOP leadership aides expressed confidence Thursday morning that the vote would pass. A defeat on the floor would hold enormous consequences for Boehner, who has put his speakership on the line with this vote.
It has taken the full force of the House Republican leadership team to build enough support within their ranks to move the Boehner plan to the floor Thursday afternoon. If the House has to vote again—with a Reid-ized version of their bill—Republicans would face an uphill battle to pass the bill again unless House Democrats come on board. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expects minimal defections on Boehner’s plan, but Democrats would be more inclined to vote for compromise legislation that has White House support. The veto threat from the White House on Boehner’s plan as is still holds.
Most members leaving the emotion-charged meeting, including GOP freshman class president Austin Scott, R-Ga., said they believed enough conservatives and other reluctant members have lined up behind Boehner to get the measure passed in what could be a dramatic roll-call vote. For example, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a prominent conservative who is running for governor next year, told reporters that he would support the bill.