House Republicans are rallying behind House Speaker John Boehner’s (R., Ohio) deficit reduction plan, believing that is it their best available option to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending. During a Wednesday morning conference meeting, Boehner told members to “get your ass in line” and support his plan. “This is the bill,” he said. “I can’t do this job unless you’re behind me.” If the bill passes the House, the speaker predicted, Senate Democrats and President Obama would “fold like a cheap suit.”
Notably, Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, opened the meeting by apologizing for a series of e-mails sent by an RSC staffer urging outside groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action to pressure undecided members to oppose the plan. Rank-and-file members, many of them members of the RSC, were none too pleased to find themselves on the list of targets. There were several calls for the offending staffer to be fired. Much of the meeting was devoted to the controversy, which merely underscores the intra-party tension that has been simmering over the past several weeks.
A number of other members echoed this sentiment. “It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than what we’d have had if we’d just let Senate Democrats and this president continue to spend more,” said freshman Rep. Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.), who plan to vote yes. “You have to accept your own limitations. I can’t impose my will on the Senate or the President.”
Rep. Steve LaTourette (R., Ohio) said members were starting to realize that they now had an opportunity to “establish the principle that the debt limit should not be treated as a routine thing but as an opportunity to get the debt under control.” Boehner’s plan, he said, “is the only vehicle available to do that.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) said the decision would come down to whether members would support this plan or the alternative, which is default. Rep. Reid Ribble (R., Wis.), a freshman on the House Budget Committee, said members recognized the need to present a united front in the debate to maximize their leverage. “We recognize that time is running out, that we need to stand together and stand for something,” Ribble told NRO. “This may be the compromise position that we have to take to get something done.”
“The president said he’s going to veto it, so we know that he doesn’t like it that much,” he added. “So do we want to stand with the president, or do we stand with the Speaker of the House? If those are my two choices right now, I’m going to stand with the Speaker of the House.”
Rep. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), a confirmed ‘no’, acknowledged that the plan is “gaining support” in the caucus. “Whether or not it’s enough I don’t know,” he added. “This could be the last train leaving the station.”
House GOP leadership staff are busily working to adjust the details of the plan after Tuesday’s scoring from the Congressional Budget Office came in below target. Sources say this has actually played to leadership’s advantage because they’ll now be able to sell a much stronger plan to their members and attract more votes.
Members will be presented with an updated draft of the plan later this afternoon, with a vote tentatively scheduled for Thursday. GOP aides won’t predict whether or not they have the votes to pass the plan, but acknowledge things are moving in the right direction. Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), however, said he thought the plan would pass. Tea-party favorite Allen West (R., Fla.), who supports the plan, said he might be willing to bet his retirement check on it. For many House Republicans, the Boehner plan is the only viable way forward. “We have to [get the votes],” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.). “I don’t think there’s a choice.”