As news of the McConnell plan spread on Capitol Hill, a group of conservative GOP senators spent the afternoon huddling with their allies in the House. The group — Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), and Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) — spent much of their time with House freshmen.
In two separate meetings, about 20 freshman Republicans welcomed the senators to the Cannon office building. Both closed-door talks focused entirely on hatching a shared debt-limit strategy, one where the Republican Study Committee’s “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal would be linked to any extension. Attendees agreed that as other debt-limit options were floated, conservatives needed to hold firm.
The Group of Five also met with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at 3 p.m., minutes before Cantor departed for the White House. They made their case, urging him to take up the RSC proposal and similar reforms in the House. Without House passage, they said, the chances for Senate action would remain slim. This meeting, according to sources in the room, was productive, but much more of a private, bicameral briefing, whereas the freshmen talks were rally-the-troops affairs.
“I don’t think the debate is over, nor do I think the fight is over yet,” Paul told me as he strolled back to the Senate. “We’ve been pushing this for a month and we decided that we had to push harder to make it happen, to do everything we can to get the votes.”
“Our strategy is to cut, cap, and balance,” Johnson said, when asked about the McConnell maneuver. “That’s what we are focused on.”