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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"Despite pressure from the White House, House GOP leaders determined Thursday night that they didn’t have the votes to pass a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act and would not seek to put their proposal on the floor on Friday. A late push to act on health care had threatened the bipartisan deal to keep the government open for one week while lawmakers crafted a longer-term spending deal. Now, members are likely to approve the short-term spending bill when it comes to the floor and keep the government open past midnight on Friday."
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.
Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.