“Is it a great proposal? No. [But] we’re one House against a Democratic Senate and Democratic White House,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), one of several fence-sitters who said they were leaning toward supporting it.
Part of the problem for Boehner is that he and his leadership team have never taken a strong-arm approach, and many conservatives did not appear to be moved by their sudden reliance on traditional hardball tactics. “Yes, they may not respond well” to those efforts, Duffy said.
Boehner also finds himself squaring off against his home-state colleague Jordan, whose chairmanship of the RSC gives him a potent power base.
Boehner must also contend with intense pressure from outside organizations, many of which helped elect last year’s massive freshman class and which have long-standing ties to his Conference’s conservative wing.
Heritage Action for America, which opposes Boehner’s plan, announced Tuesday that the bill would be a key vote. Similarly, the Club for Growth on Tuesday announced it “strongly opposes the Boehner debt limit plan” and would also make the measure a key vote.
Former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, was actively engaged in pushing back against Boehner’s plan. According to House aides, Istook was on the floor Tuesday night urging Members to vote “no.”
There are rules regarding former Members’ access to the floor, particularly those that work for think tanks, lobbying shops, nonprofit organizations and trade associations. At press time it was not immediately clear whether Istook’s activity was a violation of House rules. A Heritage spokesman did not return a request for comment.
The Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition — a grass-roots group of tea party and conservative activist organizations that spearheaded the Cut, Cap and Balance proposal Republicans have backed — reiterated its opposition to Boehner’s bill Tuesday.
“While we salute Speaker Boehner for his indefatigable efforts to forge some new agreement breaking the debt ceiling stalemate, we cannot support his latest package. It is both bad policy and a violation of the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge,” the group wrote in a memo to lawmakers.
And across the Capitol, there lurked more trouble. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the conservative kingmaker, came out against Boehner’s proposal, using his network of activists and donors to disseminate Heritage Foundation critiques of the legislation Tuesday. Other Republicans, such as Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.), also came out against Boehner’s plan.
The influence that DeMint and activist organizations carry among freshmen and the party’s conservatives cannot be underestimated. Particularly when matched against Boehner, who has always been viewed with suspicion by ideological purists, these groups, at a minimum, are making life difficult for Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy as they round up votes.
When asked if he was backing the measure, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) quipped, “Good question. Once I figure it out I’ll tell you.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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