House Speaker John Boehner has finally found a way to sell his plan to raise the debt ceiling to conservative members of Congress: declare victory and move on. This was the pitch suggested by the National Review, The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard this week: Fall in line or Obama wins. Politico's Mike Allen reports that Republican leaders told conservatives, sometimes one-on-one, "We're winning. Don't blow it now." They told lawmakers they couldn't use magic to craft their dream legislation, but that "We have the opportunity to win big here--or lose big, and we'll have no leverage." Boehner's momentum comes after near mutiny by the Republican Study Committee, which was lobbying outside groups to lobby Republicans to kill Boehner's plan. And despite the the wrath those dissenters felt after a contentious meeting yesterday, Boehner still faces tricky math as he tries to pass his plan today.
Roll Call's John Stanton and Humberto Sanchez report that for months, Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the RSC, have been trying to push the GOP rightward. How far they were willing to go to do that was revealed Wednesday, when Republicans figured out that RSC staffers had emailed a listsev saying, "Today is the day to kill the Boehner deal." Jordan apologized. DeMint didn't. Outraged over the incident helped push some lawmakers to Boehner's side.
The New York Times' Carl Hulse says Boehner had to abandon his laid-back leadership style to twist some arms, telling his colleagues at a private meeting, "I didn't put my neck on the line and go toe to toe with Obama to not have an army behind me." But despite that victory, Boehner still faces tough math. The Hill's Bob Cusack explains it really comes down to those folks who signed DeMint's "Cut, Cap, and Balance" pledge, in which they vowed not to raise the debt limit unless it included a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, plus federal spending caps, and deep spending cuts. Cusack tallies some of the important numbers for vote counters right now:
23: Number of Republican votes Boehner can lose if no Democrat votes with him
39: Number who signed DeMint's pledge.
19: Number of pledge-signers who say they'll vote no or lean that way.
6: Number of pledge-signers who supporting Boehner's bill
14: Number of pledge-signers who are mum.
22: Number of Republicans who lean no or are definite nos.
And let's not forget...
53: Number of Senators who say they'd vote against Boehner's plan.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza notes that Rep. Jim Matheson is one of the very few Democrats Boehner might be able to win over. Still, and after all of this, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Boehner's bill is still DOA in the Senate, because it would force yet another round of debt limit negotiations in just five or six months, The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer reports. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denies he's working with Reid on any kind of compromise.
And speaking of grand bargains, where's Obama? The New York Times' Jackie Calmes argues that the president has used all his big guns--a big primetime speech, a veto threat--and risks looking irrelevant. At a press conference Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney asked reporters if they expected Obama to reenact an episode of the West Wing, in which Martin Sheen's President Bartlett walks to Capitol Hill to give Congress a talking-to. One reporter said yes. As National Journal's Theresa Poulson notes, Sheen already said if he were Obama, he'd shutdown the government. The crucial scene: