House Republican leaders aren’t looking to Democrats for votes to approve the long-term spending deal that will come to a vote later this week even though many conservatives have announced they won’t support the bill.
While it is likely they will need Democratic support to pass the legislation, so far GOP lawmakers are feeling little pressure to pursue those votes because the package, negotiated late Friday night with Speaker John Boehner, got the blessing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Barack Obama.
Boehner had hoped to get at least 218 Republicans to support the final package as a demonstration of GOP unity heading into more difficult debates on raising the debt ceiling and passing a 2012 budget. But in a sign of how difficult the Ohioan’s challenge is as leader of a Republican Conference packed with Members eager to demonstrate their independence, few Republicans immediately embraced the hard-fought deal.
One House GOP leadership aide said it was “too early to make any definitive guesses about how Members will vote.”
“The bill text hasn’t been posted yet, and I believe many of our Members will be waiting to read it before they make any decisions,” the aide said.
The GOP whip operation won’t have a lot of time to sell Members on voting for the final product. House Republicans are expected to hold a floor vote Wednesday.
“Right now, it’s Member outreach, staff outreach,” the GOP leadership aide said, noting that once the Appropriations panel puts out the details of the plan, a full-court press will begin on GOP Member education. The House Appropriations Committee was expected to make the full text available online late Monday evening.
In particular, aides said, provisions such as funding the military for the rest of the year and getting the Senate to agree to hold separate votes on proposals to repeal the White House’s health care law are making it an easier sell to Republican lawmakers.
Still, several GOP lawmakers have already said they will not support the bill.
Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) have both said they will oppose the measure.
Senators of both parties are likely to review specifics of the deal today before an anticipated Thursday floor vote.
Although the deal was crafted to garner a filibuster-proof 60 votes, aides cautioned Monday that there could be opponents in both parties and said it was too early to estimate how much support the measure would get.
As is expected in the House, liberal Democrats may object to the spending cuts as too deep — as well as to the D.C. abortion and vouchers provisions — while conservative Republicans may vote “no” because of what’s not in the bill. The final version comes well below the $61 billion in cuts that conservatives had sought, and it doesn’t carry policy riders that would have eliminated federal funding for Planned Parenthood and blocked implementation of the health care overhaul.
“There’s definitely not going to be unanimous support,” one Senate GOP aide said. “There are a number of folks who were elected not to vote for Obamacare funding, not to vote for taxpayer funding for abortion and not to vote for deficit spending.”
Sen. Rand Paul, founder of the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus, came out Monday against the compromise proposal, which he described as “not credible or serious.”
“I prefer to be on ... the side of the people who sent us here to Washington to do something,” the Kentucky Republican wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. “To cut spending. To save our economy. To move toward a balanced budget. I will vote a resounding no this week to this so-called deal. And I urge my colleagues, if they are serious about cutting government spending, to do the same.”
Senate Democratic leaders do not expect to have trouble mustering the votes needed to pass the bill, but like in the House, it’s hard to know how many votes they will have until the details have been revealed, a senior Senate Democratic aide said.
Boehner, Reid and Obama came to an agreement late Friday night that cuts $38.5 billion of government spending.
Despite the expectation that potentially dozens of House Republican lawmakers will oppose the bill, the Republican whip team is continuing to focus on getting votes within the Conference.
Only 28 GOP lawmakers, including Jordan and Pence, opposed the latest three-day continuing resolution. However, a more accurate prediction for the final tally of Republican support for the six-month spending bill is thought to be the March 15 vote on a stopgap spending measure that garnered only 186 Republican votes. Fifty-four House Republicans opposed the measure, compared with just six for the first short-term CR this Congress.
Democratic aides had mixed reactions on whether House Democrats will support the final package. In the past three votes, Democratic leadership has been split on whether to support the measures. One Democratic leadership aide said Democratic support of the final package isn’t guaranteed, particularly if Republicans can’t get over the 218-vote hump of passing the bill on their own.
However, another leadership aide said Boehner won’t have trouble getting the measure across the finish line even if there are a slew of Republican defections.
“I think there will be a lot of Members who decide to vote for it,” the aide said. “It’s a deal the president brokered. There will be a lot of Members who want to support the president on this.”