House Republicans Unprepared For Senate Rejection Of Boehner Debt Limit Plan

July 28, 2011 7:33 a.m.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told his Republican caucus Thursday morning that he doesn’t yet have enough committed support to pass his debt limit bill — a high stakes vote that will take place just hours from the time of this writing.

Most of his members believe he’ll get there quickly — even among the opponents of his bill, it’s hard to find anybody who believes with any confidence that Boehner’s plan will go down.

Earlier this week, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) — chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee — told reporters Boehner lacked the votes to pass his legislation. Today he’s not so sure. “[T]hey weren’t there at the time, we’ll see what happens,” he told me.

But if it passes, Republicans will have to grapple with a key question — one they haven’t really considered, and which Boehner hasn’t prepared them to answer: What happens when the Senate sends them back a different plan?“We’re going to put all this at the doorstep of Harry Reid,” Rep. John Fleming (R-FL) told reporters Thursday. I asked whether Boehner had prepared caucus members for the possibility that they’ll have to grapple with yet another compromise — this one between Boehner’s bill and a similar plan Reid wrote himself.

“No, no discussion about that at all,” Fleming said.

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) — a conservative supporter of Boehner plan — says Republicans are looking no farther than Thursday’s vote. “The bottom line is this: What happens after this really depends on Harry Reid, and hopefully they get beyond the do-nothing aspect that they have shown in my time since I’ve been up here, and they move on this.”

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), after sitting on the fence for days, announced his support for Boehner’s plan at Thursday’s meeting. “The expectation among members is we need to focus on our work here,” Pence said. “We’re all trying to remain focused on the House doing its job for the American people.

But Senate Democrats are vowing to kill Boehner’s bill — and if they do, the overwhelming likelihood is that they send back to the House a hybrid version of the Boehner and Reid plans. Those changes might even be fairly modest — but for now Republicans say there’s little room for any.

“I think we’ll look at it. It just depends on what they are,” Fleming said. “They’ve got to meet our basic principles. Speaker Boehner says that there’s got to be more cuts than debt ceiling increase.”

“We’ll be here Saturday and Sunday,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY). “Somebody did ask what happens if it gets to the Senate and if they change it and, basically, stay tuned.”

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