When the House votes on Tuesday evening (or potentially right after midnight early Wednesday morning), House Republicans will likely be divided into two camps: Team Boehner and Team Cantor.
Those who vote for the bill will be on Team Boehner and those who oppose it will be on Team Cantor. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is backing the bill, and conservative groups like FreedomWorks are opposing it.
House Speaker John Boehner is, according to some media accounts and several Republican members, prepared to vote in favor of the the Senate “fiscal cliff” deal that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden cut late on New Year’s Eve, which passed by an 89-8 margin. Boehner aides haven’t answered requests for confirmation of these rumors and reports. The National Review‘s Robert Costa reports that Boehner won’t personally vote unless his vote is needed to pass the plan through the House.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will be taking a different path. He’ll be voting against the bill, and according to some offices, he’s been the organizing power behind House GOP opposition to the deal.
That means the number one and number two House Republicans will be heading in completely different directions when the “fiscal cliff” vote happens.
Some conservatives, like Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, who plan to vote against the bill expect it to pass anyway. And that may end up happening. But the internal House GOP fight is far from over with this vote.
Boehner suffered politically after his failure to pass his fiscal cliff “Plan B” before Christmas, and now that he’ll likely need Democratic votes to push this plan through he’s even weaker.
That means Cantor, who’s wanted the speakership for a long time, could strike now and challenge Boehner in the election for House officeholders on Thursday–or he’ll likely have to wait at least another two years.
Cantor’s spokespersons Doug Heye and Rory Cooper both publicly tweeted denials. “Majority Leader Cantor stands with @SpeakerBoehner,” Heye wrote. “Speculation otherwise is silly, non-productive and untrue.”
“Folks out there w/ crazy theories about what’s going on in House,” Cooper wrote. “All ridiculous. Just figuring out best path forward. Stay calm, carry on.”
Cooper’s and Heye’s comments don’t negate the fact that Boehner and Cantor are deliberately taking drastically different stances heading into this vote.
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer even thinks Cantor may be going to make a move at Boehner. “It’s possible (Eric Cantor’s opposition to fiscal cliff bill) is the prelude to a challenge Thursday,” Krauthammer said on Fox News Channel’s Special Report on Tuesday evening.
“It would be naked to do it at this late hour as a result of the split over this vote. Look, there are a lot of conservatives in the Republican caucus in the House who hate the bill and for good reason. This is a complete surrender on everything. The ratio of tax hikes to spending cuts is 40 to 1, rather than 1 to 1 or 1 to 2 or 1 to 3. So, I mean it’s a complete rout by the Democrats.”