House Republicans’ United Front
Taking default off the table leaves room to negotiate spending cuts.

Representatives Boehner and Cantor


Andrew Stiles

The commitment to a balanced budget was also key in persuading influential activist groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action — both of which played a role in scuttling Boehner’s “Plan B” — to hold their fire on the short-term extension.

Not all members have been persuaded, however. Franks says that although the bill is likely to pass, there has been some “fraying around the edges,” mostly owing to concerns over the political optics of voting for a “clean” debt-limit extension, without any spending cuts attached.

“Raising the debt ceiling for a budget to be named later is something that I probably won’t be able to vote for,” says Representative Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.), an outspoken Boehner critic.

A conservative GOP aide was quick to dismiss such dissent as insignificant. “The outliers in this case are going to be outliers on almost anything,” says the aide. “Conservatives are behind this plan.” Their support is indicative of a growing consensus on a longer-term political strategy; members spoke of the short-term extension as merely the first component in the “constellation” of decisions Washington pols will have to make over the next several months.

House Republicans are eager to shift the focus of the debate by highlighting the outright refusal of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to present a Democratic budget (as required by law) for more than three years. Several members noted their delight at the success of recent social-media campaigns, such as the Twitter hashtag #NoBudgetNoPay. “The public is on our side when it comes to spending,” Griffin tells NRO.

Members are openly angry, and almost envious, that Senate Democrats have suffered virtually no repercussions for failing to do their job, even as they have relentlessly attacked Republicans for their support of Paul Ryan’s previous budgets. “We can’t go another year where they’re always on offense and we’re always on defense,” remarks one GOP aide.

The bill, if passed, would also push back the prospect of a default on the national debt, something GOP leaders wanted to take off the table, at least temporarily, in order to boost their political leverage.

“All this nonsense about default and shutting down the government, it’s no way to have an argument,” one GOP lawmaker tells NRO. “Let’s give ourselves some breathing room to have a real debate about the issues.”

If everything goes according to plan on Wednesday, Reid will be hard pressed not to hold a vote in the Senate, especially since the White House has already signaled it would not oppose the bill.

However, Reid and other Democrats offered no indication Tuesday that they plan to put forward a budget; Reid told reporters he had not yet had time to meet with Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D., Wash.).

“We’ll approach that when we need to,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D., Md.), a senior member of the Budget Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), for his part, declined to endorse the House plan during a press conference. “We look forward to seeing what Senate Democrats recommend,” he said.

Senate sources say Republicans are pleased that Senate Democrats may finally be forced to produce a budget, but they have concerns that no spending cuts are attached to the debt-limit extension. It remains to be seen whether Harry Reid will permit some of his most vulnerable members, up for reelection in red-leaning states in 2014, to cast a series of challenging votes on spending and tax issues that could compromise his Senate majority. They will be forced to if he decides to bring a budget to the floor.

Republicans are hoping the political cost of doing nothing will be too high. “This is a lose/lose for Harry Reid,” says a GOP Senate aide.

— Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review.