All eyes will be on the House Thursday as Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) seeks to pass his version of a debt ceiling bill, the latest attempt from Congress to solve the ongoing legislative stalemate and the biggest test of Boehner’s power since he ascended to the top job earlier this year.

After delaying the vote for a day in the wake of a less-than-favorable report on the bill from the Congressional Budget Office, Boehner and his allies appear to have picked up some momentum in advance of today’s vote — although most sharp observers insisted that they had no idea how things would turn out. (And Democrats argue that the outcome doesn’t matter since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the bill will not pass the Senate.)

To pass the measure, Boehner needs 217 votes. Here are five members to keep an eye on when the vote is called; whether they are a “yea” or a “nay”will be a telling indication of where Boehner’s bill is headed.

* Jeff Flake: The Arizona Republican has been a longtime fiscal hawk, railing against federal spending at every chance he gets. And, he’s running for the Senate in 2012 — so far without a serious primary challenge. Flake knows that voting for the Boehner bill could be an open invitation to a real primary fight, but he said on Wednesday that he had moved off his hard “no” stance because “this could be the last train leaving the station.”

* Jim Matheson: Matheson, a Democrat, has managed to keep his Republican-leaning Utah seat by voting very conservatively since being elected in 2000. Matheson is one of only a handful of Democrats that Boehner might be able to get a “yes” vote out of — especially since the Utahan is weighing a run for Senate or governor in 2012.

* Mike Pence: Pence, an Indiana Republican, is a former member of the House Republican leadership and is regarded as a hero in fiscal conservative circles. He is also running for governor in 2012 and is a heavy favorite. He has said publicly that he is undecided but did praise the leadership for moving up a vote on a “clean” balanced budget amendment on Wednesday.

* Ben Quayle: The Arizona freshman has said he would withhold a decision until the final bill came out, but his time to make a decision is rapidly running out. Quayle is just the sort of conservative establishment type — his father, Dan, was a senator from Indiana and vice president — that Boehner has to have to get to 217 votes.

* Tim Scott: Scott is a tea party darling who, despite being elected in 2010, is already regarded as a rising star in South Carolina and nationally. He is reportedly leaning “no” but he is also one of two House freshmen — South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem is the other — who were chosen as liaisons to the party leadership. If ever Boehner needed Scott’s vote, today is the day.

McCain assails ‘tea party hobbits’: The maverick was back on the Senate floor yesterday.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) railed against Republicans and “tea party hobbits” for holding out for a balanced budget amendment, saying it was “worse than foolish” to think it could pass before the Aug. 2 deadline for a potential default.

(Clarification: McCain was quoting a Wall Street Journal editorial when he referenced “tea party hobbits”)

He accused some senators of naivete and others of dishonesty.

“To hold out and say we won’t agree to raising the debt limit until we pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution — it’s unfair, it’s bizarre,” he said. “And maybe some people who have only been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that. Others know better.”

In response, former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) — a tea partier whom McCain supported last year — leapt to the movement’s defense.

“Ironically, this man campaigned for tea party support in his last re-election, but now throws Christine O’Donnell and I into the harbor with Sarah Palin,” Angle said in a statement. “As in the fable, it is the hobbits who are the heroes and save the land. This Lord of the TARP (bailout) actually ought to read to the end of the story and join forces with the tea party, not criticize it.”

Perry hurts Bachmann: If Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) campaign isn’t wary of Texas Gov. Rick Perry yet, it should be.

A new Gallup poll shows that adding Perry to the GOP presidential race would hurt Bachmann even more than adding Sarah Palin would.

In a race with only the declared candidates, Bachmann is in second place with 18 percent. With just Perry added, she drops to 13 percent; with just Palin added, Bachmann drops to 16 percent.

It’s further proof that Bachmann is much more than a Palin clone of some sort and that her support is more a symptom of her wide-ranging conservative bona fides. Perry, who checks a lot of those same boxes, threatens that.

Perry says abortion is a state issue: Perry’s commitment to states’ rights extended to gay marriage after New York passed it’s new gay marriage law, and now it extends to abortion as well.

Perry said Wednesday that abortion is also an issue that should be up to each individual state. He said that is Roe v. Wade is somehow overturned, states could make their own determinations

“You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then [for] something that doesn’t suit you say, ‘We’d rather not have states decide that,’” Perry said.

Palin returns to Iowa: Just when she started fading from consciousness — yet again — Palin’s back.

Real Clear Politics reported Wednesday that she will be the keynote speaker at a tea party rally in Iowa on Sept. 3.

Yet again, though, aside from these occasional appearances, Palin is doing little to make people believe she's running for president.


Herman Cain apologizes for his past statements on Muslims.

Romney continues to dance lightly around the debt limit fight.

Potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) goes to Iowa to campaign for his dad, 2012 candidate Ron Paul.

Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) is being sued for $100,000 in back child support.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) didn’t snub Obama when Obama was in his state; Beshear wasn’t invited. Beshear is now being accused of trying to make himself more palatable in a strongly anti-Obama state by not correcting suggestions that he had dissed the president.

Jeb Bush = not a conservative favorite?

Club for Growth head Chris Chocola says GOP members supporting Boehner’s bill should fear their constituents, not the Club.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) raises money for West Virginia GOP governor candidate Bill Maloney (R).

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) low approval rating doesn’t hurt the GOP, but Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) helps.


Iowa polling to test Paul’s move to the mainstream” — Trip Gabriel, New York Times

Pawlenty struggles to step out of Bachmann’s shadow” — Amy Gardner, Washington Post

Romney looks past primary, campaigns against Obama” — Ann Sanner and Philip Elliot, AP

And read more on PostPolitics

Boehner bill pits GOP realists vs. purists

Boehner begins arm-twisting to get deal