House GOP leaders unable to gain support for funding, debt ceiling measure

House Republican leadership was dealt an embarrassing blow yesterday when they had to pull their own spending plan and debt ceiling package off the floor because they didn’t have enough votes to pass it.

The day began with House leaders talking about their own bill, despite progress between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The House package would have funded the federal government until January 15 and extended the debt ceiling until February 7, roughly the same dates as the Reid-McConnell deal.

But there were a couple of aspects to the package drew opposition from the White House and Senate Democrats, including the two-year delay of the medical device tax and the ending the special subsidies for members of Congress. The House plan would have also required President Barack Obama to purchase coverage through the ObamaCare exchange.

The House proposal caused Reid and McConnell to postpone their talks, prompting some senators to question House leaders for getting involved when a deal in the Senate was close. Reid blasted Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) from the Senate floor, accusing him and other House leaders of trying to “torpedo bipartisan progress with a bill that can’t pass the Senate and won’t pass.”

“I’m disappointed with John Boehner, who’d, once again, try to preserve his role at the expense of the country,” added Reid.

As the day progressed, it seemed that House leaders were losing their grip on the bill as different factions of the conference were reluctant or unwilling to support it. Politico notes that Boehner was at least 20 to 30 votes short. By the evening they were forced to cancel plans to hold a vote, putting the ball back in the court of the Senate.

There is no deal as of yet, but it appears that Reid and McConnell are close to getting something hammered out. Then comes the hard part for Republicans — selling it to members, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and factions of the party’s base that put pressure congressional Republicans to defund ObamaCare.

FreedomWorks, a group that backed Cruz, has already indicated that they would oppose the Senate deal. Other conservative groups, including Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund, are likely to take the same stance, if they haven’t already. There is also the possibility of a filibuster, and no one knows what Cruz will do when the measure comes to the floor for cloture.

When and if that deal comes out of the Senate, it’s likely that House Democrats will have to vote en mass to move it out of the chamber to send it to President Obama for his signature.

At this stage, it’s very unlikely that congressional Republicans will get much of anything out of the deal. The ObamaCare income verification provisions rumored to be part of the deal are watered down, according to Philip Klein. The “super-committee” to examine spending, including entitlements, and tax reform could be considered a “win,” but only if your expectations are low. And there’s no telling what may come of it.

One takeaway from this, though it’s too early to take it to the bank, is that Boehner is possibly on the ropes with House Republicans. The inability to produce any consensus in his conference on his latest play doesn’t bode well for his future.

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