Delayed, at least as of this writing (at 10:11 p.m.). Evidently Boehner and Cantor are trotting the fence-sitting Republicans in to Boehner’s office to make the case for supporting the leadership bill, but it is simply too close to risk bringing the bill to vote. If the blog sources are correct, Boehner is not offering earmarks in return for support. As a congressional aide emailed me, “You talk about the legislative coffers — a few years ago they’d just promise a bridge and we’d be all good to go. Now they don’t have any arrows in the persuasive quiver. What are they going to say, vote for this bill or we’ll KEEP funding that agriculture program in your district???”
So what is Boehner offering? My guess it’s a combination of tweaks to the bill to include a stronger “trigger” so that in a two-step debt ceiling process, Congress is forced to make more spending cuts in the second round next year, as well as a clean up-or-down vote on a balanced budget amendment. Remember, many of the fiscal conservatives and Tea Partiers want to be able to go back to their districts and show that they voted for the balanced budget amendment, particular since several conservative lobbying groups (Club for Growth) have noted that they will score this as a key vote when rating legislators’ voting record. If you are going to take a hit on this vote, at least soften it somewhat with a second one to balance the voting record. And while it is true that most of the “no” or “leaning no” votes are in safe districts, some of them may be concerned about getting primaried from the right.
But I think Boehner is also making the argument that it is important, in a multi-step bargaining game, that Republicans stick together on this first vote in order to force the Democrats in the Senate to go on record in opposition. Republicans will still get a second shot at more spending cuts when the inevitable counteroffer comes from the Senate. In short, Boehner is saying, “Don’t let my speakership fall because of this vote. Send a signal that we will stick together.”
Meanwhile, as I follow the debate, there’s a couple of interesting tidbits to report. First, Nancy Pelosi is promising anyone who will listen that Democrats will not support the Republican House bill. In truth, Pelosi is largely irrelevant to this debate in the House – I’m pretty sure Boehner is not thinking at this stage that he needs to win Democrats to pass this bill.
It now appears that the bill is going to be tweaked in the Rules Committee. If so, and if I remember my parliamentary procedure correctly, that means the Leadership will need a vote on the new Rule before taking up the bill. That can be done on an expedited basis, but it’s another complication. This is looking like a late night.
I think I’ll stay with this post until my scotch runs out (Hint: it has never run out). If you are following this, comments are welcome……
10:37 p.m. Well, that was quick. No sooner do I open the scotch bottle than multiple sources report Boehner has pulled the plug for tonight, so that the Rules Committee can tweak the bill and presumably issue a new rule prior to the vote tomorrow. If that’s the case, we’ll have to do this all over again tomorrw. I’ll try to set the table in the morning. See you then….