House Republicans are scheduled to caucus around 1 p.m. on Tuesday about the “fiscal cliff” deal that Vice President Joe Biden cut late yesterday with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s unclear if House Republicans will support the bill that passed the Senate around 2 a.m. by an 89-8 vote. Only five Senate Republicans–Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Richard Shelby of Alabama–voted against the deal. Three Senate Democrats joined them.
If less than 50 percent of House Republicans support the deal in caucus, principle would require Boehner to refuse to bring the bill to the floor of the House for a vote. That’s because a precedent set by former Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert, dubbed the “Hastert Rule,” requires that a Speaker have support from at least 50 percent of his or her own caucus before bringing a bill to the floor for a vote.
When Democrat Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker, she largely followed the Hastert Rule as well.
While the majority of Senate Republicans having supported this deal may give political cover to House Republicans wishing to support it, there are reports that a majority of the House GOP will oppose the bill.
Ron Meyer, the spokesman for conservative group American Majority Action, said in a Monday evening email to reporters that he “heard directly from senior GOP conservative members in the House that Speaker Boehner does not have a majority of support from the GOP caucus–not even close.”
“These sources tell me Boehner has indicated he won’t bring up a plan without 50% GOP support,” Meyer said. “The McConnell-Biden compromise does not meet that threshold.”
While Boehner aides have told the Associated Press that he believes in and abides by the Hastert Rule, they wouldn’t answer when asked by the AP or Breitbart News if the Speaker would follow the rule when it comes to the “fiscal cliff” or this deal specifically.
The deal on the table deal veers far from what Republicans maintain a deal should address. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it only cuts $15 billion in spending while raising $620 billion in new tax revenue. That’s an unprecedented 41:1 tax increases to spending cuts ratio.
If Boehner violates the Hastert Rule and allows a vote to happen on this deal, he’ll likely need Democrats to vote for it so it can pass. Biden is reportedly helping Pelosi whip up House Democratic support for the deal around noon on Tuesday.
Boehner’s speakership itself may be on the line here, too. If he violates his principles yet again–as he did with his fiscal cliff “Plan B”–House Republicans may band together to remove him from office on Thursday. If only 17 House Republicans oppose Boehner’s re-election as Speaker, the vote for Speaker moves to additional balloting, where he could be vulnerable to a conservative challenger.