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Some Republicans abandon ‘clean’ spending bill

Several of the GOP's shutdown doves say they now oppose a clean spending bill to reopen the government.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

Several of the GOP's shutdown doves say they now oppose a clean spending bill to reopen the government.

US Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner (C) waves to visitors in Statuary Hall after leaving the House Chamber following procedural votes, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 04 October 2013. (Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA)

Democrats have argued for days that the government would reopen if only Speaker John Boehner allowed a vote on a clean spending bill without any anti-Obamacare provisions. After all, 22 Republicans support their plan and that’s enough to reach a majority.

Actually, make that 21 Republicans. Wait, maybe it’s 20 Republicans. Hold on — 18?

That’s right, the GOP’s shutdown doves are rapidly dwindling in number as several say they now oppose both a clean continuing resolution to reopen the government and a clean debt ceiling to avoid default.

“That day has come and gone,’ Congressman Chris Collins of New York, a former “clean” CR supporter, told reporters Tuesday. “We’re now talking about the debt ceiling so we need to talk about them together.”

As for whether he would support a clean debt ceiling: “Absolutely not.”

In addition to Collins, there’s Congressman Devin Nunes, who frequently refers to Senator Ted Cruz and his fellow shutdown hawks as “lemmings with suicide vests.” Not only did Nunes back off his demand for a clean CR this week, he denied he ever even supported the idea. That is, until Huffington Post produced the audio. His spokesman clarified to them that “the shutdown created new circumstances” that made passing a clean CR a no-go.

“Today, no,” Nunes told NBC Tuesday. “Today we’re implementing the Cruz strategy.”

Slate’s Dave Weigel reported Tuesday that Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta, who said last week he “absolutely” backed a clean CR, has taken the same journey. And, according to ABC News, three other GOP members — Mike Simpson of Idaho, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, and Randy Forbes of Virginia—have switched from yays to nays this week. In a statement, Simpson said he would back only a very short term CR, “perhaps one or two weeks,” to extend negotiations.

Obama has repeatedly said reopening the government with a clean CR and passing a clean debt ceiling increase are preconditions to any negotiations with Republicans, a position he reiterated on Tuesday in a phone call with Boehner.

The latest movement strengthens Republicans’ hand against what was becoming an embarrassing line of attack from the president, who often pointed to media counts of Republicans backing a clean CR while challenging Boehner to hold a vote.

“My very strong suspicion is there are enough votes there” President Barack Obama said on Monday, challenging the Speaker to “call a vote right now.”

Part of the problem for Democrats is that many of the relatively centrist GOP members who tried to head off the shutdown are also the members most closely aligned with Speaker Boehner. It’s the tea party caucus that usually rebels against whip counts, but this time they’re on Boehner’s side because he’s followed their strategy of confronting Obama over health care.  While in theory the shutdown doves might back a clean CR, they also don’t want to undercut their leadership. They’ve already stuck with him on several motions by Democrats to bring up a clean CR.

It’s not all bad news for Democrats, though. On Tuesday, Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado moved the other direction, from opposing a clean CR to backing one. Coffman faces a difficult re-election after his district was redrawn to include more Democrats.

“I have done my best to delay, defund and dismantle all or parts of Obamacare because I believe that much of it will be harmful to this country in the long run,” Coffman wrote in an op-ed for the Denver Post. “However, the debate over attaching Obamacare to a spending bill must end and I will argue before my colleagues in the House that we need to pass a “clean” spending bill to immediately reopen the government.”

Whip counts are an inexact science—but these are the remaining 18 Republicans who still may vote for a clean CR based on their public statements. But the list remains fluid and given the way things are headed, it’s no longer a safe assumption that if Boehner brings the bill to the floor Democrats and Republicans will be able to easily pass it.

1) Rep Charlie Dent (R-PA)

2) Rep Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL)

3) Rep Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)

4) Rep Jim Gerlach (R-PA)

5) Rep Tim Griffin (R-AR)

6) Rep Michael Grimm (R-NY)

7) Rep Richard Hanna (R-NY)

8) Rep Peter King (R-NY)

9) Rep Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)

10) Rep Pat Meehan (R-PA)

11) Rep Erik Paulsen (R-MN)

12) Rep Scott Rigell (R-VA)

13) Rep Dennis Ross (R-FL)

14) Rep Jon Runyan (R-NJ)

15) Rep Rob Wittman (R-VA)

16) Rep Frank Wolf (R-VA)

17) Rep Bill Young (R-FL)

18) Mike Coffman (R-CO)

Jane Timm contributed to this report.