House Republicans are bracing for their third legislative setback in less than 24 hours as one of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s signature YouCut items appears headed for defeat.
On Tuesday, the Virginia Republican was forced to pull a trade bill from the floor after it became clear that he did not have enough GOP votes to pass the measure. Later in the day, a bipartisan coalition of liberals and conservatives unexpectedly beat back the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill.
The House on Wednesday afternoon is scheduled to vote on legislation designed to “retrieve” $178 million in funds paid to the United Nations. The vote is part of Cantor’s pledge to bring one YouCut bill to the floor each week to help trim the federal deficit.
But GOP aides said Wednesday morning that the bill is not expected to garner enough support to muster the two-thirds vote needed to pass it on the suspension calendar.
Publicly, Republicans were placing the blame on Democrats.
“House Republicans are standing with the American people in their desire to cut spending in order to reduce barriers to job creation and economic growth. If Democrats want to play partisan politics with $190 million in taxpayer dollars, I think that clearly shows they didn’t learn any lessons from this fall,” said Erica Elliott, press secretary for Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Several GOP aides, however, said privately that the collapse of the U.N. bill spells deeper problems for Republicans. One aide noted that Rep. Peter King and other New York Republicans are unhappy with the bill because they fear it undermines security at U.N. headquarters in New York City.
On Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner downplayed the recent legislative defeats, saying they are simply part of the growing pains for the new majority.
“We’ve been in the majority four weeks,” the Ohio Republican told reporters Wednesday when asked about the PATRIOT Act. “We’re not going to be perfect every day. If the Democrats who’d voted for these same provisions last year would have voted for them this year, it would have passed.”
Democrats said it is Republicans who can’t get it together.
“I think the Republican leaders have a real challenge, I think their party is divided. When you have [Budget Chairman Paul] Ryan [Wis.] giving the Republican response and [Rep. Michele] Bachmann [Minn.] giving her response, I think it’s sort of a visual of division, and there is a sense by some that you need multiple voices speaking in order to make their particular points,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Wednesday.
The Maryland Democrat argued that Republican claims that the bill would cut the deficit are disingenuous.
“The [Congressional Budget Office] says this will have no budget effect. It’s all rhetoric and the focus is on anti-U.N. sentiment. The U.N. certainly has things to be criticized about; however, of the $179 million, $100 million has been allocated for security at the U.N. headquarters in New York at the request of the New York Police Department,” Hoyer said.
A senior GOP aide argued that in the end Democrats, not Republicans, will pay the price for the defeat of the U.N. bill.
“If Democrats want to reinforce the common wisdom that they are unserious on fiscal issues and spending, that’s their right, but it’s that reality that got them unelected in the first place,” the aide said.
Kathleen Hunter and Jessica Brady contributed to this report.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.