As Republicans and the White House move closer to a deal on the budget, House Speaker John Boehner has to carefully make sure it doesn't look like he's selling out to Democrats as Tea Partiers rally in Washington Thursday. The Hill's Russell Berman reports that congressional staffers have a target of $33 billion in spending cuts, which would be based on the cuts first proposed by House Republicans earlier this year before more conservative members demanded a bigger budget slashing of $61 billion. A major hurdle is the policy riders--which would defund Planned Parenthood, the heath care overhaul, and other things Democrats like--and negotiations aren't yet dealing with them.
Though Vice President Joe Biden told reporters that the $33 billion number was settled, Boehner disputed that, saying, "There is no deal until there's a whole deal." It's unclear to aides whether Boehner will be able to convince most of his caucus to vote for such a plan--even fellow GOP leaders are looking shakey. Politico's Marin Cogan and Jake Sherman report that as Boehner is trying to avoid "looking like he's making backroom deals" with Democrats, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, "is seemingly unaware of some of the intricacies of the negotiations between the administration and Senate leadership." Earlier this week, Politico described Cantor as "panicky," and yesterday he announced a vote on a symbolic and ultimately futile Government Shutdown Prevention Act.
A Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill will only add to the pressure on Republicans to stick to their budget-cutting guns. Tea Party Patriot's co-founder Mark Meckler warned that the GOP have been "granted a temporary shot at showing they can lead [the] country back to fiscal solvency, and we expect them to behave in a way that people want," Cogan and Sherman report. But Republicans must blame themselves for all the spending-cut hype, as they promised to carve $100 billion from spending during the midterm campaign. That "symbolic number," Politico says, is one "that many in leadership have come to regret."
So perhaps a veteran of such budget battles is coming to the rescue with some PR pointers. Thursday morning, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich met with the 87-member freshmen Republican class in a closed-door meeting. Though Gingrich said a deal hadn't been met, he did offer advice on how to spin one if the GOP were to compromise, Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin reports. Gingrich's advice? Blame the 23 Senate Democrats up for reeelection next year. "We need to make sure people understand that the House Republicans are really committed to very dramatic changes, but are limited by the reality and the Constitution," he said.