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House GOP leaders urged their Members on Tuesday to stay on message in defending their budget resolution despite vigorous attacks on its Medicare provisions.
During a conference call with rank-and-file Members, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) also reassured them that they will not agree to any tax increases as part of a deal to raise the debt limit.
According to a GOP aide, Boehner ruled out the possibility of tax increases, despite the fact that a bipartisan “gang of six” Senators is considering some tax increases as part of its deficit-reduction proposal.
After a number of Members raised concerns that the group could potentially undercut their demands, Boehner called any plan with tax increases a “non-starter” and said, “We’re not going to raise taxes, period,” according to the aide.
As for the House-passed budget resolution, Boehner and other leaders sought to downplay attacks from Democrats, the White House and voters during a handful of town hall meetings last week.
According to a second GOP aide, the leaders dismissed charges that Republicans were seeking to privatize Medicare, assuring their Members that they “are pretty predictable.”
When pressed for advice for how to handle town halls and potential challenges on the budget, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) argued that Republicans need to front-load their presentations with assurances that coverage will not change for people older than 55, then argue that the proposal is crucial “to make sure this important safety net is around for future generations,” the aide said.
More generally, Republicans said they were surprised at the positive tone of the call and insisted that Members appeared committed to Ryan’s plan, despite the series of high-profile confrontations during town halls.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is considering whether to force a vote on the House’s budget blueprint on the Senate floor, according to spokesman Jon Summers.
Reid has opted several times this year to bring up House legislation that he had the votes to kill. He brought up the House’s $61 billion package of budget cuts alongside an early Democratic proposal, and both failed. He also has allowed votes on House efforts to repeal the health care overhaul, to defund the overhaul and to end funding for Planned Parenthood.
However, budget resolutions are generally subject to special rules on the Senate floor, including unlimited amendments subject to a 51-vote threshold. That could cause headaches for Democrats should Members seek tougher spending restrictions. For instance, three Senators who caucus with the Democratic Conference have endorsed a bill that would impose strict spending caps.
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has been preparing a budget resolution of his own and has told others in the gang of six that he will move ahead with it if they can’t reach agreement soon.