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Corralling the Votes for Budget Deal

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10:27 a.m. | Even before Tuesday morning's GOP conference meeting to sell the bipartisan budget agreement got underway, Rep. Tom Cole and others were already making their pitch.  

The Oklahoma Republican and longtime ally of retiring Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, had a message particularly for what he called "the vote no, hope yes crowd" of House Republicans who would want to see a big deal go through without having to use their individual cards to vote in favor of it.  

"We need a lot of those people honestly to step up. If you think it's a good deal and the best deal we can get under the circumstances, you ought to vote for it," Cole said on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal."  

Cole pegged that group of Republicans as comprising somewhere between 70 and 90 members, while he said a "governing" caucus on the order of 70 to 100 can be expected to vote with the leadership on agreements of this type. He said he did not think the conservative Freedom Caucus would support the deal released late Monday night, but he seemed less concerned about those members than the people who would want it to pass without supporting it.  

Rep. Paul D. Ryan, the expected next speaker, on Tuesday began a process of expressing frustration to colleagues about the way current leadership introduced the massive budget deal, which is likely coming to the floor Wednesday without giving members much time to digest the provisions.

A Ryan aide said the congressman is "reserving judgment" for the time being on whether he will vote for the agreement, which conservatives such as Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said the likely next speaker must have been in cahoots with leaders on the substance of the package.

In remarks to the GOP conference, Boehner said the deal "is the best possible deal at this moment" for everyone. He also acknowledged frustration that he was trying to clear the decks for Ryan.

"I didn't want him to walk into a dirty barn full of you-know-what," Boehner said.  

Asked to respond to Ryan's assessment that the process "stinks" in bringing the budget deal to the floor this week, he said, "I agree ... but there wasn't any choice." The alternative, he said, was a clean debt ceiling increase and a government shutdown.  

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California is on board, and sure to carry Democrats with her, making it appear the agreement that would lift budget caps for two years while also suspending the debt limit well past the 2016 presidential election is in good shape in the chamber.  

"The bipartisan budget package unveiled last night represents real progress for hard-working families across the country.  At long last, we have broken the sequester’s stranglehold on our national defense and our investments in good-paying jobs and the future of America," Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday.  

Because the underlying legislation that's being used as a vehicle for the deal has already passed the Senate, the measure could see a key vote to limit debate in that chamber as early as Friday  even without any unanimous consent agreements.  

A White House official signaled support from the president for what is considered a "responsible agreement," and encouraged members to move ahead with the budget process. From the White House view, the deal protects Obama's priorities of  "shielding programs that working families depend on and protecting Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries from harmful cuts."  

"The agreement reached by Congressional leaders last night meets these key tests: it provides substantial relief from harmful spending cuts, and it does so equally on the defense and non-defense sides of the budget," the official said in a statement.  

Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, indicated late Monday that defense hawks would likely be on board, citing the need to prevent cutbacks to the Pentagon and provide funding at "predictable levels."  

"There is tremendous value in a two-year deal, as it provides the Department of Defense with the certainty it needs to plan for and execute various missions around the world," said Turner in a statement. "Certainly, in a one-year funding bill these numbers would be absolutely unacceptable."  

Turner and the national security hawks will likely form part of Cole's "governing" GOP coalition this time around.  

"Nobody is going to be popping champagne corks at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It's like most of these things. It's a deal," Cole said on C-SPAN.  

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.  Related: GOP Senators Concerned by 'Gimmicks' in Budget Deal Conservatives Balk at Budget Deal Process Big Budget Deal Could Clean Out Boehner’s Barn See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.