House Republicans left an early morning meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Saturday in agreement: the ball remains in the President’s court. “There is no deal. No negotiations,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.).
Speaker Boehner has kept the majority of his conference intact by refusing to acquiesce to either the Senate or the White House. The President on Thursday rejected the Speaker’s plan to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks to engage in broader budget negotiations.
Susan Collins (R-Maine) is crafting a potential compromise in the Senate, which many House Republicans loathe. It would kick the can down the road by raising the debt ceiling and continue funding the government at current spending levels through at least January. The plan, which hasn’t been scheduled for a floor vote, would allow more flexibility for agencies to deal with sequestration, delay the Obamacare medical device tax for two years and require verification for income exchanges. A Senate-House budget conference could also be created.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said that the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) spoke about the Collins proposal in the meeting. Fleming called increased White House oversight over sequestration cuts “very problematic.” The Collins plan is a “non-starter with us,” Fleming said. “We’d never go along with that.”
But Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) said that Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t be easy to roll over either. “He is trying to find five Republicans that’ll be coerced enough to surrender Republican positions,” said Huelskamp. “And he’s been usually successful at finding those.”
Senate Republicans have had success in the recent past of finding enough House Republicans to forge a compromise. In the 2011 debt-ceiling showdown and the 2012 fiscal cliff debate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brokered a deal with Democrats in both chambers. McConnell has, however, largely been on the sidelines in this round of brinkmanship.
Five days before the government hits the debt-limit deadline, the House Republican conference is unified behind Speaker Boehner’s position. “It was like a giant group hug. It was kind of cheesy,” said Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) of the morning meeting. “[Rep. Louie] Gohmert praised the leadership. [Rep.] Joe Barton praised the leadership.”
“I went into the meeting thinking that we might be going to surrender to the President,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who, along with Gohmert and 10 other House Republicans, tried in January to take away the Speaker’s gavel. “What I got out of the meeting is that we’re still standing strong.”
It is clear that despite their resolve, House Republicans are tired of the shutdown. Many entered the meeting in various states of undress, without a coat or tie. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) looked like he just woke up; he wasn’t wearing socks. On the way to the morning meeting, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) told reporters what they really wanted. “I’m looking for a cup of coffee,” said Hensarling. “I’m looking for a donut,” said Foxx. “Real tired,” said Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), as he rolled his toddler in a stroller.