In a last ditch effort that went late into Thursday night, the carpet between House Speaker John Boehner and Republican House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) office suites should now be well worn. Both Republican leaders invited members who were “leaning no” or confirmed as “no” votes into their offices hoping to change their minds.
When asked by reporters outside his office Friday morning if a deal had been reached, Boehner replied saying, “I’m smiling.”
For the last twenty-four hours there was not much to smile about. The speaker’s office delayed the vote several times and tried to tweak some of the plan’s finer points in order to satisfy their members demanding steeper cuts. Prior to Thursday’s vote and in the hours leading up to it, Boehner expressed confidence he and his leadership team would assemble enough members to send a bill to the Senate.
However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had been lobbing shots toward the House side of the Capitol all day saying Boehner’s bill was “dead on arrival.” In like fashion, Reid knew any plan Senate Democrats passed would face a similar fate in the House.
Without question, Boehner’s leadership capabilities have been called into question. But this isn’t the first time Boehner has been tied to the stake. Colleagues and staff who have worked alongside him say the more hectic and intense the environment becomes, Boehner’s demeanor remains calm and focused. That attribute will be put to its ultimate test today.
Those Republicans holding out are insisting spending cuts outweigh the amount for any debt ceiling increase.
California Republican Rep. David Dreier said the revised plan would raise the nation’s debt ceiling by $900 billion and cuts would total $917 billion. Any increase in future borrowing wouldn’t take effect unless Congress sent a constitutional balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification.
A House aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Speaker has the necessary votes, but the Whip team is looking to increase their “margin of error,” or otherwise have more than enough votes needed for passage.
All five of the House Republicans from South Carolina were withholding their support of Boehner’s plan. One of the delegation members was seeking some higher guidance. Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said late Thursday, “I was a lean no. Now I’m a no,” said Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) as he and others left the House Chapel where they went to pray late Thursday evening.
Scott and his other GOP colleagues from South Carolina represent a portion of the constituents of fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Jim DeMint, who is a staunch supporter of the “Cup, Cap and Balance” plan that previously passed the House but was “tabled” or defeated in the Senate. In addition, all five of the House members represent very conservative leaning districts.
In yet another closed door meeting this morning, Boehner seems to be making progress. But why is he smiling after such a difficult evening?
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a conservative holdout and candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona sent a message via Twitter about 11:15 EDT saying, “Good news. Looks like Boehner bill will now include BBA [Balanced Budget Amendment]. Now it cuts, it caps, it balances. If so, I’m for it.”