There was something striking about the list of 22 House Republicans who voted on Friday night against their own speaker’s deficit-reduction and debt-ceiling plan; five of them were from South Carolina.
Together, these Palmetto State holdouts—Trey Gowdy, Joe Wilson, Tim Scott, Mick Mulvaney, and Jeff Duncan—represented by far the largest single-state bloc of “nays” in a roll-call vote that led to passage of Speaker John Boehner’s bill. And all but Wilson are freshmen lawmakers.
But just one night earlier, say House GOP colleagues not part of leadership, it hadn’t seemed that would necessarily be the case.
Those five had seemed close to joining-up those who would vote for Boehner’s bill, even if the state’s two senators, Republicans Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, had come out against the bill.
According to other House lawmakers, the five had been among 18 House Republicans whose votes became the focus of an intense series of meetings and negotiations late on Thursday night with Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
This mostly conservative group of 18 had been pressing for a constitutional balanced budget amendment that they believed carried more force than the language already in the bill, one that requires both chambers to pass the amendment and send it to the states.
Seeking their votes, and after talking things out with various members, individually and in groups, Boehner discussed the issue with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who indicated he would be on board with such a change.
But what had then seemed to be a deal worked out with the group of holdouts suddenly and unexpectedly unraveled with regard to the South Carolinians, say fellow lawmakers.
When the 18 later gathered as a group in McCarthy’s office and were asked for a show of hands to see who would be behind the Boehner bill—with the new language on the balanced budget amendment being put into place—only 11 were on board. Five of those who did not raise their hands were the South Carolinians.
That stunned and angered the GOP leaders and other hold-outs, who had believed a deal had been struck.
Others lawmakers who were helping to negotiate the deal said the change of heart seemed to come after at least one of the South Carolinians talked to DeMint.
Stories differ on what was said and threatened between the group and leaders. But at one point three of the South Carolinians, Scott, Mulvaney, and Duncan, went to the Capitol chapel to pray about things. Scott emerged, telling reporters, “I was a lean no, now I’m a no.”
On Friday, there were reports that House leaders threatened to stop a labor-relations bill that would harm efforts to bring a Boeing plant to South Carolina, but all sides deny that ever happened.
Even if it did, the delegation stuck together as a group in Friday’s vote.
Scott did not dispute that the group had heard leaders out the night before.
“Yeah I mean we certainly [discussed] what we saw as the best opportunity for us to impact the nation as well as the balanced budget amendment, the overall debt crisis that we’re in. And we talked through strategies that were important,” said Scott.
But in ultimately rejecting the idea of voting for the Boehner bill, said Scott, “unfortunately, [the Boehner bill] simply does not take the sufficient action needed to secure our nation’s financial future and earn my support.”
“It does not cut enough spending in the short-term, and I need to see the bill mandate a balanced budget amendment immediately,” he said, in reasoning echoed by the others.
Had they gotten any advice from DeMint?
“Vote your conscience,” was all that Scott said after Friday’s vote.