He can afford to lose 23 Republicans, I believe. Number of Republicans leaning or confirmed no as of 2 p.m.: 22.
As much as the left hates having to make token concessions on spending, a GOP meltdown on the House floor tonight would be be a mighty fine consolation prize.
House Speaker John Boehner continued to lobby fellow Republicans to back his debt bill Thursday, telling members at a closed-door meeting, “We don’t have the votes yet,” according to a Republican in the room. But he added, “Today is the day we’re going to get it passed.”
As part of that lobbying effort, House GOP leaders agreed to add a last minute sweetener for conservatives who have been pushing for a balanced budget amendment to ensure future spending cuts actually happen.
House Republicans plan to have a pair of votes Friday on two versions of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. One version, if adopted by the states, would require that the government maintain a balanced budget. The other version, one that conservatives have long been pushing, would also require a supermajority vote in both chambers to approve any tax increases.
The supermajority requirement on tax hikes cinched it for Mike Pence, who’s now a yes. Nearly 30 of the GOP’s 87 freshmen also announced today that they’re backing Boehner, so momentum is with the leadership. Just one question: Er, what happens if Reid makes good on his threat to kill Boehner’s bill in its crib tonight?
“We’re going to put all this at the doorstep of Harry Reid,” Rep. John Fleming (R-FL) told reporters Thursday. I asked whether Boehner had prepared caucus members for the possibility that they’ll have to grapple with yet another compromise — this one between Boehner’s bill and a similar plan Reid wrote himself.
“No, no discussion about that at all,” Fleming said.
Rep. Allen West (R-FL) — a conservative supporter of Boehner plan — says Republicans are looking no farther than Thursday’s vote. “The bottom line is this: What happens after this really depends on Harry Reid, and hopefully they get beyond the do-nothing aspect that they have shown in my time since I’ve been up here, and they move on this.”
So Boehner’s strategy, I take it, is to win this vote by the skin of his teeth, then be forced into some sort of compromise with Reid after the bill dies in the Senate, and then sell the new, even more watered-down bill to House conservatives who are already groaning about having to line up behind Boehner? Unless there’s a market panic tomorrow, how does he win that vote? And Reid’s strategy, as I understand it, is to convince Boehner not to waste precious time by moving ahead with this vote since the bill’s doomed anyway — even though that sort of public ultimatum is guaranteed to force Boehner’s hand and nudge House Republicans into rallying behind him, with the GOP then sure to blame Reid’s rejectionism as the true stumbling block to an economy-saving deal. Huh.
Whether intentionally or not, though, Reid’s ultimatum gives Boehner a face-saving excuse if it turns out he can’t get to 218 before the vote. Having to yank the bill because his own caucus won’t support it would be a catastrophic embarrassment. Having to yank the bill because those damned Democrats in the Senate refuse to agree to a short-term deal that’s politically inconvenient for Obama is simply bowing to political reality. Boehner’s been meeting one on one with reluctant Republicans all day; if 5 p.m. rolls around and he doesn’t have the votes, he’ll pull it and then say he had no choice because there isn’t enough time left before August 2 to push bills that have no hope of becoming law. Which brings us back to the “what then?” question posed above.
Here he is at today’s presser. Exit question: Can we all agree, at least, that the S&P’s influence on our little national crisis is way, way greater than it should be? Whether you think they’ve been too pessimistic or not pessimistic enough, given their track record, why should we care what they think?
Update: Things are in flux and votes may (and probably will) change, but Think Progress’s whip count finds 25 Republicans leaning or confirmed no. That leaves Boehner two votes short and there are no House Democrats who are budging.
Update: National Journal still counts just 22 GOP no’s. And even better for Boehner, because of Democratic absences, he only needs to get to 216 for a majority, which means he can lose 24 Republicans and still win.
Update: A Twitter pal notes that Boehner won’t need tea party votes on a compromise bill with Reid since he’ll pick up Democratic votes on that one too. Absolutely; I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. But House progressives will peel off on that one in all likelihood and there aren’t many Blue Dogs left, so Boehner may yet need a few conservatives to join moderate Republicans in pushing him over the top. Can he get them? With the default deadline bearing down, yeah, probably.
Update: The Hill files a new story at 4:08 p.m.: Boehner’s still short.
There are 22 House Republicans who will vote no or are leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip count. There are more than three dozen Republicans who are publicly undecided, and 12 of them said or suggested on Thursday that they are still on the fence.
Boehner and his top lieutenants were scrambling for votes Thursday in anticipation of this evening’s vote, expected at around 6 p.m…
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told reporters he was still leaning no on the bill and questioned whether it would be the GOP’s last chance to influence the debt limit debate. He speculated that the Senate could send Reid’s measure back to the House, which he said was similar to Boehner’s proposal, and then the House could attach a clean balanced budget amendment and send it back to the Senate.
Maybe Reid’s ultimatum convinced fencesitters that there’s no point taking a tough vote for a bill that’s destined to die anyway, whatever the consequences may be for Boehner’s prestige. Anyone want to start a pool on what time, precisely, we’ll hear that Boehner is pulling the bill from the floor?