Republicans Not Sold on Boehner’s Debt-Ceiling Plan

House Speaker John Boehner, center, and GOP leaders finish a news conference on Capitol Hill, Sept. 26, 2013, after a closed-door strategy session.
National Journal
Tim Alberta
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Tim Alberta
Sept. 26, 2013, 7:25 a.m.

Speak­er John Boehner at­temp­ted Thursday morn­ing to sell House Re­pub­lic­ans on a debt-ceil­ing plan that would delay the im­ple­ment­a­tion of Obama­care, jump­start the Key­stone Pipeline, and in­tro­duce oth­er con­ser­vat­ive re­forms in hopes of unit­ing the GOP con­fer­ence ahead of tough votes on the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion and debt-ceil­ing.

But re­ac­tion from mem­bers was mixed, at best.

“We shouldn’t even be talk­ing about the debt-ceil­ing un­til we get [the Sen­ate] to vote on a good CR for Amer­ica,” fumed Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who plans to vote against the debt-ceil­ing bill when it hits the floor, which could hap­pen as soon as Fri­day.

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama said he was un­de­cided on the debt-lim­it pack­age, even though “it def­in­itely has a lot of good­ies in it.” Brooks ad­ded: “It does not cut spend­ing and does not solve the prob­lem.”

Asked if it could pass the House, Brooks replied, “In my judg­ment, no.”

Oth­ers Re­pub­lic­ans, though, were more op­tim­ist­ic. Rep. Tom Price of Geor­gia, who has been work­ing with lead­er­ship to craft a com­pre­hens­ive strategy to deal with the CR and debt-ceil­ing fights, said mem­bers seemed sat­is­fied that Boehner’s pro­pos­al meets the cri­ter­ia they have long de­man­ded for a debt-ceil­ing in­crease.

“It meets the Boehner Rule — any in­crease is met by dol­lar-for-dol­lar de­crease in spend­ing as well as re­forms,” Price said. “It will delay Obama­care for a year. … And it keeps the House mov­ing in a dir­ec­tion where the Sen­ate has to re­spond, which is im­port­ant.”

But does it have enough sup­port to pass the House? “I think so, yeah,” Price said.

Rep. Kev­in Brady of Texas agreed, say­ing con­ser­vat­ives should rally be­hind the Boehner plan. “We should be uni­fied in bring­ing this debt-ceil­ing pro­pos­al out of the House,” said Brady, not­ing that the pack­age in­cludes “very strong, pro-growth policies that will help re­duce the de­fi­cit.”

Brady said of a po­ten­tial floor vote Fri­day: “There should be more than 218.”

The pro­spect of a quick floor vote, however, did not sit well with un­de­cided Re­pub­lic­ans like Rep. Jim Briden­stine of Ok­lahoma. “I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what lead­er­ship puts on the table,” he said. “I think there’s a lot more to be dis­cussed.”

Rep. Randy Weber of Texas agreed: “I have de­cided not take a po­s­i­tion as of yet,” he said. “I want to hear more.”

Mean­while, con­ser­vat­ive lead­ers wouldn’t bite when asked wheth­er the debt-ceil­ing pro­pos­al has the votes to pass.

“You must con­fuse me with the whip,” said a smil­ing Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. Pressed to ana­lyze the sup­port with­in his con­fer­ence for Boehner’s plan, Hensarling re­peated three times: “I ex­pect Re­pub­lic­ans to be united.”

Even Rep. Steve Scal­ise, chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, seemed un­cer­tain of wheth­er Boehner’s present­a­tion had won over a suf­fi­cient num­ber of con­ser­vat­ives. “We’re go­ing to find out,” he said. “You’ll have to ask the whip.”

Shane Gold­mach­er con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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