House Republicans Rally, But Senate Dems Throw Cold Water on Boehner Plan


House Republicans met Thursday in the basement of the Capitol, consulting each other as they prepare to deliver a judgement on Speaker John Boehner’s biggest test yet: can he rally House Republicans to his version of a debt limit deal, and in the process strengthen his hand as the negotiations reach the final stage?

House Speaker John Boehner; photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Boehner’s plan, which immediately cuts about $900 billion in spending over 10 years and raises the debt limit for six months, will come to a vote on the floor of the House early Thursday evening. While he has seen momentum swing to his side in the last few days, no one knows yet if it has the votes to pass.

According to The Hill’s whip count, updated early Thursday afternoon, 22 House Republicans planned to vote no on the plan. Boehner needs 217 of his 240 members to vote yes in order to pass it without help from Democrats, so he can only afford to lose 23 Republicans. The Hill count also shows 40 undecided Republican members.

Influential House conservative Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday morning he was still a no a vote.

But many House Republican freshmen appear eager to support their leader. About 20 of them appeared in front of television cameras Thursday to rally around what they said was the best plan that could pass.

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., made the political argument for the Boehner plan.

“Speaker Boehner has pushed for the largest spending cuts he believes can pass the Senate and will be signed by the president. Some people say its not enough and I agree,” Roby said.

“But I don’t understand how a vote against Speaker Boehner’s plan at this hour does anything to help advance our beliefs. In fact it does everything to empower more spending and more borrowing that this president wants,” she added.

Early Thursday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came to the Senate floor to reiterate his opposition to the Boehner plan. He announced that should it pass, the Senate will immediately vote Thursday night to defeat it.

“No Democrat will vote for a short-term band-aid that would put our economy at risk and put the nation back in this untenable situation a few short months from now.,” Reid said. Democrats have 53 votes in the Senate, more than enough to defeat the bill.

Reid’s plan, which is pending in the Senate, reduces spending by $2.2 trillion over 10 years and extends the debt limit until after the 2012 election, which is also a key demand of President Obama’s. The Boehner plan would make a second increase in the debt limit this winter hinge on the passage of more spending cuts, which would be determined by a bipartisan committee of lawmakers before facing a vote in both chambers.

The difference between postponing the debt limit crisis until 2013 and reviving it again in a matter of months is likely to be the key point of contention after the Boehner bill is likely defeated in the House or Senate — and if the Reid plan cannot pass the Senate.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said her members are eager to vote for something other than the Boehner plan (she could not guarantee that all Democrats would vote against the Boehner plan), laid out the path forward for reporters Thursday: more negotiations as time runs out.

“I’m hopeful that once everyone has made their statement that we can again come together with the White House…that we could come to terms as to how we can go forward in a way that honors our original purpose, to reduce the deficit, but not in a way that comes together to destroy the middle class. And somewhere in between we have to find that place,” Pelosi said.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.