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On Debt Ceiling, Conservatives Counting on Leadership Promises

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
After last week’s GOP retreat, Boehner told members he is committed to cutting spending. House Republican leaders are hoping that their plan raise the debt ceiling will gain the support of the party’s right flank.

The restive right flank of the House Republican Conference appears willing to walk the plank Wednesday on a short-term debt limit extension, but it is vowing there will be “hell to pay” if GOP leaders don’t follow through on agreements they made to secure conservative support.

At the party’s retreat last week in Williamsburg, Va., Speaker John A. Boehner told a group of five influential conservatives that he would keep top-line spending levels at or below those set under the automatic sequestration cuts; the Ohio Republican also said he would work toward a budget that balances in 10 years.

At the meeting, the conservatives blessed the GOP plan to offer an almost four-month debt ceiling extension bill that would also withhold pay for members if their chamber of Congress does not pass a budget.

Boehner reaffirmed the commitment at a Republican Conference meeting Tuesday, telling members that House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s “goal is to advance a budget that balances within a decade. I applaud that goal, and share it. And as I said at the retreat, the sequester will be in place unless and until we get spending cuts and reforms to replace it, and that start us down a path to balance within the decade.”

Ryan was part of the group of five, which also included Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana and former RSC Chairmen Tom Price of Georgia, Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

The additional concessions are playing a major role in shoring up support on the right, prompting positive reactions in some unlikely corners of the conference.

“Those with the influence look me in the eye and say this House will produce a budget that balances in 10 years. And there’s gonna be some tough stuff in there, but it’s telling the truth, it’s reality,” said Rep. David Schweikert, one of four members removed from coveted committee assignments in early December. The Arizona Republican said he was leaning toward voting for the measure.

“This is going to be the ultimate test of the relevancy of those we entrust with those leadership positions. And I believe there’d be hell to pay if they squander this,” Schweikert added.

Democratic opposition to the measure appears to be faltering. The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy on Tuesday saying President Barack Obama “would not oppose a short-term solution to the debt limit,” and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said he had not decided whether he will urge his colleagues to vote against the bill.

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