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Posted at 06:25 PM ET, 07/19/2011

House Republicans, the debt ceiling and the McConnell-Reid plan


Although the House remains the main sticking point in dramatic debt-limit negotiations as the clock ticks to the Aug. 2 default deadline, the unruly lower chamber has a few more members willing to compromise than one might think.

Based on their past voting history, a full 168 House Republicans (of the 240 total GOPers), or nearly 70 percent of the House Republican Conference, may be amenable to a compromise bill. Call them the Compromise Caucus.

Some of those 168 are part of the GOP’s “old guard,” including committee chairmen and top panel members, while others are freshman members or moderates. House GOP leadership will be working to win their support in the case that a “Plan B” being negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) becomes the only realistic option for avoiding default.

They are the Republicans who supported the compromise that averted a government shutdown in April and who have not signed the “cut, cap and balance” pledge being promoted by more than 100 conservative groups.

And they may end up being the only thing standing between lawmakers and a default in less than two weeks, when the U.S. Treasury says the country will no longer be able to pay its bills if the debt limit isn’t raised.

Thus far, it’s been the more raucous group of conservatives that’s garnered the most attention -- those who have refused to support any effort whatsoever to raise the debt ceiling.

But as the April debate over averting a government shutdown illustrated, the House Republican conference is far from a unified bloc.

Here’s our read of how the House Republican conference might break down if the “last ditch” McConnell-Reid plan comes up for a vote, in order of least- to most-likely to vote for the deal:

1. The “no” votes on“Cut, Cap and Balance Act”: Although 229 Republicans supported the “cut, cap and balance” plan , nine voted “no” because they oppose any move to raise the country’s debt ceiling. Those nine will almost certainly be “no” votes on the McConnell-Reid plan as well.

2. The “cut, cap and balance” pledge-signers: This group comprises the 38 House Republicans who have signed the “cut, cap and balance pledge.” (“ (Note that the pledge-signers, unlike those who voted for last night’s “Cut, Cap and Balance Act,” vow not to raise the debt ceiling unless the requirements of the pledge are satisfied.)

3. The “no” votes on last April’s government shutdown deal: Fifty-nine House Republicans voted against the fiscal 2011 funding deal that averted a government shutdown in April. Of them, 27 signed the “cut, cap and balance” pledge - making them very likely “no” votes on any debt-limit compromise. The remaining 32 may not be automatic “no” votes, but they are more likely to be resistant to a compromise than other members of the House Republican rank-and-file.

4. Republicans who haven’t signed the “cut, cap and balance” pledge and who supported the April government-shutdown compromise: A total of 179 House Republicans backed April’s bipartisan deal to avert a shutdown, eleven of whom have signed the “cut, cap and balance” pledge. That leaves 168 members, or nearly 70 percent of the House Republican conference, who may be amenable to a McConnell-Reid compromise. Those will be the members – ranging from committee chairs and the GOP’s “old guard” to the party’s two-dozen or so moderate members — whose support House GOP leadership will be working to win in the case that the “last ditch plan” becomes the only realistic option for avoiding default.

5. House Republican leaders: All members of the House Republican leadership have said two things about the potential compromise plan thus far: They are leaving the door open to it, and they do not believe failing to raise the debt ceiling is an option.

If a McConnell-Reid compromise does indeed materialize (and with the Gang of Six plan apparently picking up steam, that’s anybody’s guess), it won’t be without the blessing of the House’s top Republicans, whose support will be needed in order to ensure that the back-up plan doesn’t fall short of the 218 votes necessary for passage.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that given the number of Republicans who have already expressed their opposition to any compromise, no “Plan B” is going to pass the House without the support of some Democrats - and as recently as this morning,

Democratic leaders have indicated that they are not shutting the door to the McConnell-Reid plan, either.

Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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By  |  06:25 PM ET, 07/19/2011

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