Here’s Why Republicans Who Say They “Support a Clean CR” Actually Don’t

The “Republican whip count for a clean CR” is the rainbow-maned white unicorn of the shutdown. As I reported last week, some of the Republicans who are regularly included in media whip counts for a “clean CR”—a full funding of government at sequestration spending levels, with no policy riders—say they don’t really support it.

Yesterday, California Rep. Devin Nunes asked the Washington Post to strike his name from one whip count and insisted to the Huffington Post that he’d been misquoted. HuffPost had, naturally, gotten the quote at one of the many reporters-and-recorders scrums that happen on the Hill, and posted the audio.

The move by Nunes’ office comes a few days after the congressman fumed to conservative outlet Newsmax that a certain “left-wing publication” had incorrectly reported that he said he would back a clean funding bill.

“The last thing I would do is work with [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi,” Nunes told Newsmax. He suggested that “someone took some comments I made and then made up a conclusion.”

But HuffPost’s Sabrina Siddiqui asked Nunes last Monday, hours before the shutdown began, whether he’d support a clean funding bill if it came down to it. His response: “Yeah.” During the same exchange, Nunes told another reporter that he expects there’s “more [Republicans] that would support it” as more time goes by.

What happened, as HuffPost notes, is that the government shut down anyway—and Nunes stopped wanting a clean CR. More to the point, he never went on record supporting any of the post-shutdown Democratic gambits to bring up the CR. The world, to them, has changed over the past week—but they haven’t.

“My position has not changed at all,” insisted Nunes when I followed up. “I’ve been very clear with you guys. For some reason, one of the other reporters decided to make something up today. My preference was a clean CR, before we did the shutdown. I’ve been out on every major television show stating this over and over again. It’s not news. There’s not going to be a vote [on a clean CR]. There’s not the votes for it. If there was a serious negotiation with Democrats going on, maybe, but there’s not. They’re doing gimmicks.”

Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta, who is also often placed on the whip lists, had the same stance as Nunes. “I’m not in favor of a clean CR,” he told me. “I’m past that. There haven’t been several whip counts—it was at 1 a.m. after we’d taken three shots at keeping the government open. At the time, I was in favor of a clean CR for a week or two weeks so we could keep negotiating. Since then I’ve found a group of Democrats who are willing to repeal the Medical Device Tax, which I think would be a great compromise, since it seems very obvious that the Senate and the president are not going to deal away Obamacare. If we can dismantle Obamacare piece by piece, I think that’s another step forward.”

Barletta went on to say that he actually favored attaching a balanced-budget amendment to the debt limit, so he’s really not in a cave-in mood. But what’s the larger point of Clean CR Mania? It’s that the media wants to see Republicans cracking and caving on a “clean CR,” and the party isn’t actually doing so.

“I don’t think this was the objective, but as much as people would like to say we’re not unified, we are,” said California Rep. John Campbell, a conservative who’s retiring this year.* “We’ve been driven to unity because the Democrats’ position is so unreasonable.”

*Correction, Oct. 8, 2013: This post originally mispelled California Rep. John Campbell’s last name.