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House Republican leaders seem to have averted a potential rift in the conference, garnering wide support for a continuing resolution that Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Thursday said will move next week.
GOP leaders called a Wednesday afternoon meeting to brief members on the strategy for the CR, where Speaker John A. Boehner urged members to continue fighting in unison, on Capitol Hill and in their districts, to keep the sequester’s spending cuts in effect.
“We’re on the side of the angels,” the Ohio Republican told his members in the closed-door conference meeting, according to a source in the room.
House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., on Wednesday helped explain the details of his bill at the special meeting of the Republican Conference. He is drafting a fiscal 2013 spending package that would effectively cap spending at around $974 billion. It uses mechanisms put in place by the two recent budget control measures (PL 112-25, PL 112-240) to make the cuts. Those measures would keep in place a cap of $1.043 trillion on discretionary spending for fiscal 2013, but the sequester kicks in March 1 and cuts that back to about $974 billion.
Rogers left the meeting saying there was “wide and deep” support for his bill. “I have never seen a matter of this magnitude that had no one speak against it,” he said.
Many Republicans leaving the meeting echoed that, saying there appears to be strong support for the Rogers bill. Leaders will still need to canvas members before bringing it to the floor, but that doesn’t appear to be an obstacle, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said as he left the meeting.
“I am sure that they are going to officially whip the conference before making a decision, but it sure looked good to me,” Brady said.
There had been some concern that the bill starts out with a nominal topline that’s higher than the sequester. Under current law, the sequester will be triggered Friday and will hit hard at Rogers’ bill. It will absorb about $71 billion of the $85 billion in scheduled cuts. Congress would need to alter the law to prevent this. But to assuage the concerns of conservatives, Rogers will write into his bill a provision that will state a clear intention for the sequester to hit.
“A lot of us who are not appropriators don’t understand it, but it will be at the lower number,” Brady said.