House Conservatives Wrestle With the Debt Limit Compromise

The survival of the House GOP’s debt limit hike, the one they hammered out during the retreat, depends – like everything else around here – on the support of wayward conservatives. At an early afternoon roundtable, sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, some of the most notable GOP holdouts were asked again and again if they could back the bill, one that doesn’t require spending cuts in a temporary debt limit increase.

They were mixed. “I’m a ‘no’ on anything until someone’s made the case that I should vote yes,” said Rep. Justin Amash, one of the Republicans booted from the Budget Committee at the end of last year. “Our messaging has not been very strong and the public is not behind us.”

That, according to Rep. Jeff Duncan, was the point. He was right on messaging, starting his hype session by counting the days (1364) since the U.S. Senate passed a budget. Shaming them would bring the country around to the GOP’s position. “It’s a test for all of us,” he said, “for conservatives across America to really rally behind something that has reform efforts tied to it.”

Rep. Raul Labrador made the best case for backing Boehner this time. “I’m okay with what leadership is doing right now because they actually have an agenda: Pass a balanced budget in 10 years.” A skeptical conservative in the audience asked whether Republicans were punting, for the umpteenth time, and getting no cuts. “We’re not getting nothing in return,” said Labrador. “We’re asking for a budget.”

But what kind of a budget, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, whose very name now sends leadership into spasms of annoyance, wondered whether the party had been sold a sow’s ear. “You can pass a budget that’s one page and it meets the requirements of the act. You can say, ‘hey, we like the budget control act,’ and that fits.”