As the disheartening details continue to emerge about the $38 billion spending cut deal, and on the eve of a vote scheduled for Thursday, Republicans leaders are urging members to show party loyalty and vote for the bill. According to sources present at a GOP conference meeting Wednesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) pressed members for support, saying that a vote against the CR would be “taking the easy way out.”
That did not sit well with some freshman members, many of whom are particularly dismayed by a new report from the Congressional Budget Office predicting that the immediate deficit reduction impact of the $38 billion in cuts would amount to just $352 million. Freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.), in a statement announcing his intention to vote against the CR, pointed out that the CBO’s number reflects savings of little more $1 per person in the United States.
“In the last two hours, the country has borrowed about $352 million, so we’re making no progress in getting out of the red,” Huelskamp said. “The American people are looking for meaningful reductions that actually will make a difference to our $1.6 trillion deficit and our $14.3 trillion of debt.”
Huelskamp told National Review Online that he had basically decided when the deal was first announced that he would vote against it, but said other members were probably having second thoughts in light of the CBO report. “It’ll be interesting to see how folks vote when the cuts in here weren’t really cuts,” he said. “That will upset folks back home when they look at it. They thought freshmen were up here to change the way Washington operates, but this is the same-old same-old they’ve been doing for years.”
Rep. James Lankford (R., Okla.), also a freshman, told NRO that he was “planning to vote yes,” but had not yet reviewed the CBO report and other details of the bill, and said his vote was subject to change.
“If it’s smoke and mirrors, if we’re doing what we were critical of the other party doing before, yes it would [change my vote],” he said. “If it’s not genuine, then that’s not why we came. We came to make real cuts. We came to say we’ve got to get us back on balance, and if it’s smoke and mirrors than that’s not going to help.”
“The easy way out would be to vote for it at this point,” Lankford added. “All the momentum is voting for it. I understand that, and by the way, that may be the right thing to do. I’m not saying it isn’t, but I have the responsibility to look at the evidence and not just vote on what I hear on the news or what’s happening in the chamber.”
GOP leaders have expressed confidence they’ll be able to pass the bill, but they will almost certainly have to rely on Democratic votes to do so. Majority Leader Cantor on Tuesday said “we’ll pass this bill,” indicating that Rep. McCarthy was predicting “strong Republican support.” Also, influential conservative groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth, which lobbied against a recent vote on a short-term continuing resolution that saw 54 Republican defections, have been conspicuously absent from the present debate.
National Journal has a running whip count on the CR, with so far 10 Republicans confirmed in the ‘no’ column. NRO can add two more — Reps. Huelskamp and Tom Graves (R., Ga.) — to that list, which contains as many Democrats as it does Republicans. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) has declined to indicate whether any Democrats would support the bill. Meanwhile, in the Senate, four Republicans — Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and David Vitter — have already announced they will vote against the CR.