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With the House and Senate continuing to mark up their competing transportation spending plans this week, House GOP leaders are looking for the magic formula that will get them the 218 Republican votes needed for passage.
With virtually the entire Democratic Caucus expected to vote against the five-year, $260 billion bill, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) is leaning heavily on Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (Ill.) to convince enough Republicans to overcome entrenched opposition among conservatives, and even moderates with district-specific complaints.
They have their work cut out for them. Outside groups such as the Club for Growth already have begun pushing Boehner’s right flank to oppose the bill, and leadership aides acknowledge they could lose as many as 50 conservatives on the final floor vote. Add to that a host of other Members with parochial concerns — ranging from coastal drilling to union restrictions in the bill to the fact that it opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling — and getting to 218 becomes increasingly tricky.
According to lawmakers, McCarthy, Roskam and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) are hoping an aggressive “education campaign” led by the two Whips, along with the promise of floor votes on Members’ amendments, will bring enough rank-and-file Members and conservatives into the fold to push the measure over the line.
So far, McCarthy and Roskam have held two “listening sessions” — with more planned for today and Thursday — patterned on their budget listening session from last year.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who has worked closely with Mica and leadership in those sessions, said he believes they are going well so far.
“I feel pretty confident. We’re going through this education process. ... We’re moving in the right direction,” Shuster said. Leadership is also likely to use some sort of an open rule process, Boehner announced Tuesday, saying that he hopes for it to “come to the floor in an open process. What that looks like, it’s a little too early to tell, but I think it’s important to continue to open the floor.”
According to Republicans, leaders hope that allowing Members to vote on amendments either on specific issues or broader thematic provisions — most notably conservatives’ demands to devolve the program to states — will ultimately bring Members on board, even though most of those amendments will likely have little chance of passage.
“Leadership wants to accommodate folks,” Mica said Tuesday.
“I think it looks pretty good. ... I think we’ll have this done by [Feb. 17],” Mica added.
“I don’t know what the final rule is going to be, but there’s going to be a lot of amendments,” Shuster said.