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GOP leaders seek to build support for Boehner debt plan

July 26, 2011|By Kathleen Hennessey | Washington Bureau
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, surrounded by Republican staffers, walks to a meeting with other GOP leaders at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington on Tuesday.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, surrounded by Republican staffers,… (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA )

House Republican leaders Tuesday tried to sell their deficit-reduction/debt-limit proposal as the only "bipartisan" plan on the table, but acknowledged they don't yet have the votes to pass the bill through the House.

At a morning news conference, House Speaker John Boehner said that despite some pushback from high-profile House conservatives, he's optimistic the House will pass the plan Wednesday.

"I do think we have some work to do to get it passed, but I think we can do it," Boehner told reporters.

If House Democrats remain largely united against the bill -- as they claim they will -- Boehner will need all but about 20 of his GOP members to get the job done.

Five Democrats have already voted for a stricter version of the Boehner plan.

Boehner has stressed that the bill is not a first choice for Republicans, but a best doable option crafted in weekend talks with Senate Democrats concerning efforts to raise the federal government's debt ceiling before an Aug.2 deadline for default. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he never agreed to the plan.

Asked if the plan would do enough to calm the financial markets, Boehner emphasized that more deficit reduction would be coming later in the year when a special congressional committee devises a plan for at least $1.8 trillion in spending reductions.

"They can do far more," Boehner said. "I do believe this plan is enough. ... I would ask all my colleagues, Democrat and Republican, to look at this common-sense plan, this common-sense way forward that will avoid default and put American fiscal house back in order."

Meanwhile, staunch conservatives in both chambers held a news conference to call on President Obama to come forward with a plan for how government bills will be paid if no deal is reached before Aug. 2.

They're backing legislation that would force the administration to pay interest on the debt, make Social Security payments and provide military pay before other functions of government, such as courts, border security or federal employees, are continued.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio said he hoped the legislation wouldn't be necessary but said, "there may be a chance we get past Aug. 2."

Jordan confirmed that as of Tuesday morning, Boehner did not have the votes.

Also, the influential conservative group Heritage Action announced Tuesday morning that it was opposed to the Boehner plan and would count this as a key vote in scoring lawmakers' conservative records.

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