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

Representatives Boehner and Cantor


Andrew Stiles

House Republicans on Wednesday are hoping to present a united front and jump-start the next several months’ worth of budget negotiations by approving a short-term debt-limit extension with near-unanimous GOP support.

Members will vote on a “limited suspension” of the federal debt limit through May 19, which would temporarily allow the Treasury Department to issue new debt to cover obligations incurred during that period, along with a measure that would withhold Senators’ pay if they fail to pass a budget.

“All we’re saying is: If the president and the Senate, if this country needs to incur more debt — Senate, please show us your plan to repay that debt, please show us your plan to control spending,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) told reporters Tuesday. 

At a press conference Tuesday evening, House leaders declined to say if they had enough votes to pass the bill. However, several GOP aides and lawmakers tell National Review Online that the measure will probably pass with a limited number of defections.

“I think there’s more unity now on this issue than probably anything else I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Representative Tim Griffin (R., Ark.), echoing a popular sentiment among members — including many conservatives — following a two-hour GOP conference meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday.

“We’re all in,” says Representative Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.).

The bill’s passage would spare House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and his leadership team a repeat of the embarrassing “Plan B” debacle in December, when they had to cancel a vote on their preferred fiscal-cliff legislation because they lacked sufficient GOP support.

For Boehner, it would also be a significant reaffirmation of his leadership following a rough patch of several weeks that included a failed attempt to oust him as speaker. Since the failed coup, he has worked hard to return conservative members to the fold by listening to them and incorporating their ideas.

Representative Trent Franks (R., Ariz.), a prominent conservative member, told reporters he would support the bill, noting that House leaders had performed “admirably” under very difficult circumstances.

Another conservative GOP congressman praised leadership for the way it has “adjusted to changes within the conference, by allowing ideas to grow from the bottom and work their way up.”

The plan that’s up for a vote on Wednesday originated in a working group of conservative members including House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.); Representative Steve Scalise (R., La.), who is chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC); and Representatives Tom Price (R., Ga.), Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), and Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), all former RSC chairmen.

After introducing the plan last week during the House Republican retreat in Williamsburg, Va., GOP leaders worked with members to retool the final bill and address members’ concerns.

On Tuesday, Ryan and Cantor huddled with RSC members to urge a united front. At the conference meeting that evening, Boehner made a further appeal to conservatives by committing to produce a House budget that would balance within a ten-year window.

Representative Tom Graves (R., Ga.), a conservative who said he was still undecided on how he’ll vote, praised this commitment as an important step. “They’ve been very explicit about putting forward bold solutions and balancing the budget in ten years, and that has certainly piqued my interest,” he says of House leadership. “I applaud them for that. But it’s going to require some tough decisions in the future.”


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