Following yesterday's revolt, it now appears Speaker Boehner and his GOP leadership team have successfully aligned their caucus behind Boehner's debt plan. National Review is doing some excellent work following the evolving whip count. Editor Rich Lowry summarizes the tone and outcome of this morning's closed-door Republican conference meeting:
One read-out from the meeting this morning from a House leadership aide: “I was amazed. I was very, very worried walking into it and it went better than I expected. The members get that on this vote you either back John Boehner or Barack Obama. It’s not perfect, but if it gets through the House, it gets through the Senate and the president will sign it. And it cuts trillions of dollars and it holds the president accountable. He wants a blank check and it doesn’t give him one.”
This is a very savvy way to frame the vote. It makes it very hard for strong conservatives to beg off. Republicans have generally gotten their way, party leadership is arguing, so now it's time to claim victory over the president and call his veto threat bluff. Reworking the bill to improve its CBO score was also a smart play -- offering cover for wayward members to re-enter the fray. If Congress passes the Boehner plan, all the pressure will shift to President Obama. He either reverses himself and signs the bill -- a major GOP tactical win, or he follows through with a veto. That act could send the markets into chaos, and even the press couldn't find a way to blame Republicans. Andrew Stiles is reporting that a number of previously "firm no's" are flipping over into the 'yes' column, including Blake Farenthold and Jeff Flake. Stiles says Paul Ryan seems "confident," and Mike Pence "sounds like a yes."
This vote is currently scheduled for tomorrow, but I wonder if House brass might prefer to push it up to today, now that they've seized the momentum. It could be risky to let this situation simmer for another 24 hours. I'm also curious if Republicans' stated confidence about the bill's fate in the Senate is genuine, or posturing. Can Harry Reid really whip the votes to defeat a plan that closely mirrors a framework he himself agreed to this past weekend? And if he tries, are the Jon Testers and Ben Nelsons and Claire McCaskills of the upper chamber willing walk the plank for Reid? Will conservative opponents of Boehner's plan like Senators DeMint and Lee come around at the last minute? Big questions, all. In advance of a potential showdown, Sen. Mitch McConnell is borrowing a page from Boehner's party unity playbook, training his rhetorical fire on President Obama in a floor speech this morning:
The smart money now says Boehner plan will sail through the House tomorrow, and all eyes will shift to Harry Reid's heretofore do-nothing Senate. As long as Republicans stay on offense and keep offering solutions, President Obama's demagoguery and griping will continue to ring hollow. Tick tock.
UPDATE - National Journal has an up-to-the-minute whip count HERE.
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