WASHINGTON – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) scrambled Thursday to hold together his coalition before a vote on the 2011 government funding bill, as conservatives balked at the revelation that the bipartisan deal would reduce this year's deficit by $352 million, rather than the $38 billion that leaders advertised.
After the Congressional Budget Office score was released Wednesday, the National Review yanked its initial endorsement of the deal, lamenting the "gimmicks" and "classic Washington budget trickery." RedState's Erick Erickson called it "embarrassing." GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty urged lawmakers to scuttle the deal.
"It's a bipartisan agreement to cut the spending," Boehner said Thursday. "And while we had to grab them kicking and screaming to the table, we finally secured these budget cuts from them. And I believe it will pass with a bipartisan majority."
In Washington speak, this was Boehner's way of conceding that the measure may require Democratic votes to pass the chamber. It's an undesirable outcome as he tried hard to avoid defections from within his own caucus, fearing that permitting daylight between himself and the tea party could spell trouble.
It didn't help that the $38 billion figure the speaker negotiated with President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was in itself considered inadequate by hard-line conservatives who demanded he stick by the GOP election-time promise to slash the deficit by $100 billion.
Several House Republicans told the Washington Post they were undecided or would vote against the compromise, griping that its spending cuts weren't deep enough.
"Things went downhill — $100 billion to $61 billion to $38 billion," freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) told the Post. "I’ve had 36 town halls, and when I told [people there] about anything less than $100 billion, they weren’t too happy with that."
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) disavowed the resolution, pointing out that she wasn't consulted during the negotiations and had little say in the final outcome.
"I feel no ownership of that or any responsibility to it," she said at a press conference Thursday.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said it should pass so Congress can move on to bigger issues.
"On the whole, my belief is that this measure should pass," he said in a statement. "We must keep the government open."
[Image via Speaker Boehner, Creative Commons licensed]