Boehner tells House GOP to get in line

On Tuesday it looked like conservatives in the House Republican Conference were prepared to kill Speaker John Boehner’s proposal to end the budget ceiling stalemate. But it looks like he is building enough support to move it through the House, though it has taken some arm twisting that is most assuredly going to set off grassroots conservatives and the tea party movement:

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he ordered GOP lawmakers to “get your ass in line” behind his debt proposal during an interview Wednesday on a conservative radio show.

“My goal is to continue to work with all our members so we get them to the point where they say ‘yes,’ ” Boehner said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show.

A large number of conservative Republicans are opposing Boehner’s proposal, arguing it does not go far enough in reducing government spending.

But Boehner said he couldn’t understand why any Republicans would position themselves with Democrats opposing his plan.

“Barack Obama hates it, [Sen.] Harry Reid hates it, [Rep.] Nancy Pelosi hates it,” he said, naming off the Democratic leadership.
Boehner would have a lot of leverage ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline for lifting the debt ceiling if the House approves his bill.

“We’ll see,” Boehner said in response to the veto threat. “In the absence of any other plan, your plan becomes the plan.”

Boehner outlined his strategy to box the president into having “no choice but to sign it into law.” He said a rival proposal from Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, did not have the support to pass Congress.

While the plan is still being slammed by many conservatives and is dividing the party’s base, Boehner has received a boost from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), a tea party favorite, and the editors of the conservative magazine National Review.

It appears that the struggle within the caucus to find common ground has resulted in somewhat of a black-eye for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and the Republican Study Committee. According to stories that broke yesterday afternoon, an RSC staffer was communicating with groups to build support to kill Boehner’s bill:

[T]ensions within [Boehner’s] conference appear to be running high over some of the lobbying tactics being used against the bill by the Republican Study Committee led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Those tensions prompted the RSC, a group of about 175 mostly conservative GOP members, to apologize on Wednesday.

“Earlier this week, an RSC staffer sent an inappropriate e-mail to outside groups that identified members of Congress he believed were undecided on the debt-reduction proposal offered by the speaker,” committee spokesman Brian Straessle said. “This action was clearly inappropriate and was not authorized by the chairman or any other members of the staff.

“This has never been—and never will be—the way we do business at the RSC. We apologize to everyone affected, and we have already taken steps to ensure that it never happens again, either by this staffer or any other RSC staffer,” Straessle said.

Members leaving a closed-door conference meeting on Wednesday—during which the RSC’s actions were a topic of heated discussion—described Boehner as emphatically insisting that they line up behind the bill and not reject “the doable for the perfect.” Several members later said they have decided to embrace the measure, including some who previously opposed it.

Politico reported that Republicans in the caucus meeting painted a more vivid picture of how caucus members reacted (though I remember reading elsewhere that this was exaggerated) to what they view as a breaking “Eleventh Commandment”:

House Republicans 0n Wednesday morning were calling for the firing of Republican Study Committee staffers after they were caught sending e-mails to conservative groups urging them to pressure GOP lawmakers to vote against a debt proposal from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Infuriated by the e-mails from Paul Teller, the executive director of the RSC, and other staffers, members started chanting “Fire him, fire him!” while Teller stood silently at a closed-door meetings of House Republicans.

“It was an unbelievable moment,” said one GOP insider. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters yesterday that no Democrat in his caucus would vote for Boehner’s plan. Senate Democrats have used the CBO score of Reid’s $2.2 trillion deficit reduction plan to show they hae one-upped House Republicans.

The war of words and gamesmanship is discouraging to most Americans, but as Nate Silver writes, Reid and Boehner aren’t really that far off from each other:

If the bills were radically different from each other — if one slashed spending by $4 trillion, while the other relied on a more modest mix of tax increases and revenue cuts — that would make sense. But they aren’t. Instead, the bills are quite similar, as both conservative and liberal Web sites point out.

Both bills cut discretionary spending by about the same amount, roughly $1.2 trillion depending on which benchmark is used. Both set up a bipartisan fiscal commission with special powers. Neither raises taxes, or significantly changes entitlement programs.

Mr. Reid’s bill contains a little bit more deficit reduction by cutting agricultural subsidies, selling radio spectrum licenses and improving I.R.S. enforcement. Its savings are also somewhat more front-loaded, with deficit reduction of $30 billion in 2012 as compared with $1 billion for Mr. Boehner’s, although the speaker’s bill is being rewritten.

Most of the difference in their price tags, however, has to do with the fact that Mr. Reid’s bill would count $1 trillion from the winding down of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as deficit savings, while Mr. Boehner’s would not — a matter of accounting rather than a substantive difference.

The only real difference, instead, is that Mr. Boehner’s bill would require Congress to approve another increase in the debt limit early next year if it fails to approve the fiscal commission’s recommendations, while Mr. Reid’s would extend the deadline beyond the end of President Obama’s first term in one fell swoop. The bills differ, in other words, in whether there will be another vote on the debt ceiling before next year’s elections.
Maybe there are some differences in the politics of the approaches, but they don’t seem sufficient to explain why one bill would receive near-universal Republican support and the other almost none, and vice versa among Democrats.

Instead this looks to be mostly a matter of face-saving. Mr. Reid’s bill would prevent Mr. Obama from either having to exercise a veto on a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, as he has repeatedly threatened — or from having his bluff called. Mr. Boehner’s bill would spare him the indignity of having to concede to a Democrat’s approach — even though, on policy terms, Mr. Reid’s bill looks more like a win for Republicans than a loss.

So we’re basically debating who gets the last bit of egg on his face — Mr. Boehner or Mr. Obama. (At this point, each already has more than enough to make a soufflé.)

Like I said yesterday, if a deal isn’t done by tomorrow, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Who knows though, on Tuesday, I though many House Republicans were ready to 86 Boehner and yesterday many started to fall in line.

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