House GOP Leaders Make Final Pitch

by Andrew Stiles

As the House prepares to vote later this evening on a final plan to raise the debt ceiling, GOP leader are touting the deal as a modest, yet meaningful, victory for conservatives that can be largely attributed to the influence of the freshman class. “It’s not perfect, but at the end of the day, it’s doing the right thing for this country,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan (R., Fla.), describing House Speaker John Boehner’s (R., Ohio) message to members at a morning conference meeting.

In an effort to bolster their case, party leaders wheeled out House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) at a press conference following the meeting. “We see this as a huge change in the culture of spending,” Ryan said. “This does not fix our problem, but we really do believe the value of the this new Republican majority has been a change in this culture.”

Ryan explained that the statutory spending caps included in the final deal were something he has been pushing for since he first came to congress 13 years ago — always unsuccessfully, of course, even when Republicans were in the majority. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) likened the GOP’s achievement in cutting discretionary spending two years in a row to “turning around an aircraft carrier.” Oh and by the way, it does not raise taxes.

Boehner told reporters at the press conference that he had just finished meeting with Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee to address concerns over potential cuts to the defense budget. “These were the best defense numbers we were going to get,” he said. “If we don’t pass this plan, those numbers are going to go down.”

Rep. Austin Scott (R., Ga.), member of the House Armed Services Committee and president of the freshman class, told reporters earlier that he has “serious concerns” about possible defense cuts, but seemed to concur with Boehner’s assessment. “There is some length the president would have gone to to cut defense no matter what,” Scott said. “So if there hadn’t been an agreement, he still would have gone after defense.”

Leadership has tried to assure skeptical members that the deep cuts to “defense,” which could potentially be triggered in the deal, have been more broadly defined as “security spending,” meaning that in additional to the Department of Defense, spending on Homeland Security, Intelligence and the State Department would also be included. Rep. Mike Pence (R., Ind.) said he was satisfied enough to support the plan. “I think we can say with a high degree of confidence that we’ll be able to protect our military spending,” he said.

Not everyone, however, was so convinced. Freshman Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Ala.), who voted for Boehner’s initial deficit plan, said he planned to vote against the final bill because it would “gut national defense.” Brooks also expressed concern over the short amount of time members were given to review the bill before being asked to vote on it. “We’re making a $2.4 trillion decision like a runaway freight train,” he said. “We need to take time and deliberate.”

It remains to be seen how many Republicans will vote against the bill. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said the GOP should plan on contributing at least 150 votes for the final package, meaning that Republicans can afford to let about 90 of their members vote no. Cantor predicted it would pass with the support of a majority of Republicans, and said President Obama would deliver the necessary votes on the Democratic side. A vote on final passage is planned for 7 p.m.

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