Conservative groups unswayed by new details of Boehner’s debt plan

Chris Moody

In anticipation of tonight's House vote and struggling to unite a fractured caucus, House Speaker John Boehner revamped his debt ceiling plan to include even more cuts. While that may suffice for some of the GOP's most conservative lawmakers, it hasn't swayed several influential grassroots organizations that have threatened to go after House members who align with the Speaker.

Several conservative groups that have pressured House members to reject Boehner's plan examined the new bill and, despite the changes, still refuse to lend their support.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scored Boehner's most recent changes to the debt ceiling plan and found that it would slow the growth of government spending by $22 billion this year and $917 billion over the next decade. The CBO concluded that most of those cuts ($756 billion) would come from discretionary spending, which does not include Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, the strongest drivers of the nation's long-term debt.

The Club for Growth, a free-market group that demands a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution in return for a raise in the borrowing limit, reaffirmed Thursday morning that they will put a black mark on any Republican House member who votes for the plan on their annual "Congressional Scorecard."

The Club's vice president Andy Roth sent a mass email to House Republicans today, warning them of the downgrade: "Now that Republican leadership has made changes to the bill in light of the CBO's score, we are now reaffirming our original key vote. Compromise in Washington is a noble idea, but only if it leads to solving the problem at hand. This bill does nothing to fix the fiscal crisis. It merely kicks the can down the road."

Heritage Action, the activist arm of the Heritage Foundation, the nation's largest conservative think-tank with more than 700,000 members, also opposed Boehner's new plan, and issued a similar threat.

"Nothing has changed," Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler told The Ticket. "We remain opposed."

FreedomWorks, one of the nation's largest tea party groups, is sending activists on a literal door-to-door campaign of House GOP offices on Capitol Hill to remind them of their continued opposition.

"The Boehner plan is just another Washington establishment deal," FreedomWorks director of federal and state campaigns Brenden Steinhauser told The Ticket. "Even if all of the Boehner plan's promised spending trims occur, which is doubtful, in 10 years the national debt will be $23 trillion instead of $24 trillion."

At this point, it appears that despite the groups' position, Boehner may have secured enough House votes to pass his plan. Unofficial whip counts show that 22 House Republicans are a still opposed, while nine have not publicly decided.

But even if House Republican leadership can secure the votes, the bill faces a tough journey in the Senate. Democrats this week unanimously pledged to defeat Boehner's bill in the upper chamber, saying in a letter that the short-term increase in the debt ceiling "would put America at risk" and "do America more harm than good."

If, as promised, Senate Democrats defeat Boehner's plan, they will offer up a separate proposal by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Reid's plan would increase the debt ceiling for a period for two years, but include fewer cuts.

The House vote is scheduled for about 6:00 tonight.

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