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Republicans Face Pressure to Vote in Lock Step

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Rep. Steve King said he faced pressure from Republican leaders to vote “present” on the rule on the continuing resolution. The Iowa Republican was pushing for an amendment to ban funding for the health care law.

Rebellious rank-and-file House Republicans are feeling pressure from leaders to toe the party line.

While leaders aren’t whipping Members on some major votes — amendments to this week’s stopgap spending measure, for example — they have strongly tried to minimize defections on procedural matters and made it clear that unity is a priority.

“They wanted me to change my vote, but I told them I couldn’t do it,” said Rep. Walter Jones Jr., who noted that GOP leaders approached him on the House floor Jan. 26 after he voted in favor of a Democratic motion to recommit and tried to persuade him to change his mind. 

The North Carolina Republican, who regularly breaks with his leadership, held his ground and became the first in his party to support a Democratic motion to recommit this year. So far, he and another frequent Republican defector, Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), are the only GOP lawmakers who have backed Democratic motions to recommit. 

Jones said he resisted pressure to change his position because he supported the substance of the Democratic motion, which would have forced disclosure of foreign contributions to presidential campaigns.

“I’ve been a reformer and, to me, you have to vote your conscience,” he said. “I’m pleased and proud to be a Republican, but when it comes down to it, I have to do what’s right for the people I represent.”

On another procedural vote — adoption of the rule governing the floor debate on Republicans’ stopgap spending measure — Rep. Steve King said he also faced pressure from leadership to stick with the Conference. 

The Iowa Republican, who was angry that the rule would not allow him to offer an amendment to block funding for last year’s health care law, said he was persuaded to vote “present” after “a series of fairly intense discussions” with leaders that took place right “up to 25 seconds or so” before the floor vote ended. King said GOP leaders made the argument that Republicans “want to be together” on procedural matters and don’t want to “let Democrats take over this chamber.”

“I could have easily voted no,” King said. “Having an intense dialogue up the leadership chain convinced me that we’re talking business. I want that door to stay open.” 

GOP leadership aides stressed that leaders aren’t formally whipping procedural votes but acknowledged leaders have made the case that they are seeking unity on procedural matters, especially on Democratic motions to recommit.

“When leadership reaches out on things like this, it’s Member education, it’s not whipping,” one leadership aide said. 

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