Speaker John Boehner rallied his troops this morning at a closed-door conference meeting at the Capitol. Democrats are trying to “annihilate us,” he told his members. “We can get through this if we stick together.”
The Ohio Republican added that a “grand bargain” is off the table. What he wants is something that “builds on the gains we’ve made over the past three years, puts points on the board, and doesn’t raise taxes.”
Though much press has been given to a group of moderates who are feeling the heat from voters over the shutdown and pushing for a “clean” continuing resolution (CR), Boehner has moved to quiet their concerns. Several Republicans listed in media whip counts over the past few days have recanted, and any building concerns about strategy and direction are staying private, for now.
“We’re united as a party,” says Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, who has often warred with Boehner. “We’re sending over bills with almost unanimous Republican support and we’re pulling over 20, 30 sometimes 40 Democrats on these individual bills. We feel like we’re making quite a bit of headway,” he adds.
Republicans’ spines stiffened yesterday when a top White House official said at an event that President Obama’s goal was to set a precedent against negotiating over the debt ceiling.
“The president sent strong signals to us which we find offensive,” says Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, the chairman of the House Rules Committee. “He’s not a dictator. We have a constitution,” he adds. “It’s unreasonable and very selfish,” adds Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah about the Democrats’ reticence.
The GOP’s play, announced by Cantor at the meeting, is to push for a bicameral commission that brought comparisons to the “supercommittee” from the 2011 Budget Control Act (“please don’t remind me,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp when a reporter mentioned his involvement in that doomed panel).
The panel’s creation will be tied to a bill dealing with federal employees’ paychecks, something Republicans hope will entice Democrats.
“What we’re learning about Democrats is they’re very concerned about federal workers. That’s a big constituency for them . . . I think that’s a leverage point to get them to the negotiating table,” says Representative John Fleming of Lousiana.
The idea struck even some Republicans as gimmicky, but leadership is using any means available to get Obama and Senate majority leader Harry Reid to break their vows against negotiating.
“The clock is ticking. We’re running out of time, and the default is next Wednesday. It takes some time to get these bills processed through the system. We’re all running out of time and the Senate is sitting there doodling,” Appropriations chairman Hal Rogers tells me. “The Congress holds the power of the purse and yet he disdainfully ignores us,” he adds.
When asked why the latest gambit will force Obama to the table when the threat of an impending default has not, House Republicans say the tide is turning in the minds of the public.
“I think the American people are watching an unwillingness by one side to negotiate and compromise. I think they are watching the utterly vindictive actions of the administration to intensify the pain of the shutdown and I think they are watching the collapse of the administration’s signature program, Obamacare, as it unrolls and unravels before our very eyes,” says Representative Tom McClintock of California. ”The public awakening to what is happening here is going to ultimately compel the Democrats to negotiate and compromise.”
“We want to negotiate. Where’s Harry? It’s kind of like that game Where’s Waldo. Harry, where are you? They need to come to the table. The American people demand it,” says Representative Ted Yoho of Florida.