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“I’ve got to see,” the North Carolina Republican said. “I’m willing to do what needs to be done as long as I can justify my vote to my God first — I am a very strong man of faith — and then to the people. ... Right now I’ve made no commitment.”
Jones said it would be “hard to say” whether he could vote for the bill on final passage until after the amendment process plays out.
Despite the moderates’ concerns, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy dismissed the suggestion that the Conference is divided. “We have a very united caucus, and the floor is going to be very free flowing,” the California Republican said.
The open amendment process will address any lingering concerns among Members, McCarthy said.
“There will be amendments that pass and amendments that fail,” he said. “When you go into cuts, people want to see cuts in different places. That’s why we have an open process.”
McCarthy may have his work cut out for him. Republicans have hit some snags in recent days trying to pass far less contentious legislation. Leaders are not whipping individual amendments on the CR, but Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) plans to set an example for the Conference on how to vote. “He’ll inform them how he intends to vote on a case-by-case basis,” a Rogers aide said. “Otherwise, his vote itself is the position.”
Several lobbyists said GOP leaders are finding themselves in a similar position to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who struggled to get conservative House Democrats to support a controversial climate change bill in the 111th Congress that had no chance of passage in the Senate.
“Republicans who are not comfortable voting for this are going to be walking the plank, similar to Democrats on the climate bill,” one Democratic lobbyist said.
House Democrats were enjoying watching Republicans face similar struggles to what they endured over the past two years trying to unite Members around their agenda.
“When you have 260 Republican amendments to your bill, it would appear that everybody’s not in agreement with what you’ve done,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said, adding that “the deep divisions that we’ve seen within the Republican party over the last week” made it difficult to predict how many votes the CR would get.
The Maryland Democrat predicted that “not many” Democrats would support the CR. Just eight Democrats — six of whom are moderate Blue Dogs — voted Tuesday in favor of the Republican rule setting terms of CR floor debate, a possible early barometer of Democratic support on final passage.
One Democratic lobbyist said Blue Dogs are reconsidering their earlier support of the spending measure. “It remains unclear whether they’ll stick with that position, but people are definitely predisposed to reconsider that,” the lobbyist said.
And Monday’s rule vote also signaled GOP leaders might not have completely extinguished concerns from their conservative ranks. Two leaders of the Tea Party Caucus — Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Steve King (Iowa) — voted “present” on the rule. They have been pushing GOP leaders to allow King’s amendment to bar funding for the health care law.