As Debt Deal Emerges, House Republicans Remain House Republicans

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 14 2013 10:56 PM

As Debt Deal Emerges, House Republicans Remain House Republicans

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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"The markets," those invisible deciders of our fate, are incredibly bullish on a deal that might prevent an economic crisis. Stocks spiked today upon every item on the Bloomberg ticker informing traders that key congressional leaders were meeting and working toward a deal.

Congressional reporters know better. At an evening vote on one of the piecemeal bills the press corps has stopped covering, the largest crowds were around arch-conservatives who have voted for every hardline plan. They did not anticipate that the House would embrace a bill if the Senate gave it a vote. A bipartisan vote? Didn't matter.

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"If it passes the Senate—I expect the Senate surrender caucus sometimes comes together to do these things—if it passes the Senate it would be considered in the House," said Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a leadership critic swarmed by reporters. "They have not a recorded vote on anything fiscal in 14 days. Sometimes I wonder if the Senate's on furlough."

Rep. James Lankford, an Oklahoma conservative who's sort of a go-between from conservatives to leaders, shrugged when asked whether the plan being discussed—a short-term, no-conditions deal to punt the crisis long enough to form a budget conference—had anything conservatives might like. "Nothing I've heard," he said. Louisiana Rep. John Fleming suggested that a bill that enforced rigorous checks on Medicaid recipients might be sweet enough, even though that was largely a statement vote, a reiteration of something in the law that the administration has ignored. "If we have a handshake agreement, it's better to start in the House. It's more likely to pass in the House if it starts in the House," said Fleming. "In my district, last week I had a tele-townhall, and the subject was the shutdown. You know what? People in my district didn't know that there was a shutdown, or didn't care that there was a shutdown. They wanted to talk about Obamacare. My district has more Democrats than Republicans and it has one of the highest proportion of African-Americans of any district held by a Republican."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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