Why You Shouldn’t Believe Those Media Whip Counts On A “Clean” CR
Vote counts being conducted by CNN and other media outlets regarding the prospects for a “clean” Continuing Resolution in the House of Representatives suggest that the measure would pass if Speaker Boehner brought it to the floor. Every Democratic member of the House apparently says they would vote for the measure, and there are somewhere between 21 and 24 Republicans who say they would do so as well. That gives the bill more than the 217 votes it needs (lower than the normal 218 seat majority due to three vacancies in the House at the moment). As David Weigel explains, though, those numbers don’t necessarily reflect reality:
The “Republican whip count for a clean CR” is the rainbow-maned white unicorn of the shutdown. As I reported last week, some of the Republicans who are regularly included in media whip counts for a “clean CR”—a full funding of government at sequestration spending levels, with no policy riders—say they don’t really support it.
Yesterday, California Rep. Devin Nunes asked the Washington Post to strike his name from one whip count and insisted to the Huffington Post that he’d been misquoted. HuffPost had, naturally,gotten the quote at one of the many reporters-and-recorders scrums that happen on the Hill, and posted the audio.
What happened, as HuffPost notes, is that the government shut down anyway—and Nunes stopped wanting a clean CR. More to the point, he never went on record supporting any of the post-shutdown Democratic gambits to bring up the CR. The world, to them, has changed over the past week—but they haven’t.
“My position has not changed at all,” insisted Nunes when I followed up. “I’ve been very clear with you guys. For some reason, one of the other reporters decided to make something up today. My preference was a clean CR, before we did the shutdown. I’ve been out on every major television show stating this over and over again. It’s not news. There’s not going to be a vote [on a clean CR]. There’s not the votes for it. If there was a serious negotiation with Democrats going on, maybe, but there’s not. They’re doing gimmicks.”
Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta, who is also often placed on the whip lists, had the same stance as Nunes. “I’m not in favor of a clean CR,” he told me. “I’m past that. There haven’t been several whip counts—it was at 1 a.m. after we’d taken three shots at keeping the government open.
Like Nunes and Barletta, many of the GOP Members of Congress being included on these whip count lists are on the lists because of things they said before the shutdown took place and it’s not at all clear that their position is the same then as it was now. Moreover, as I’ve noted before, most of the people on these lists are people who would be unlikely to take an action that would cause political damage to Speaker Boehner, which is why the effort to get to that magic number of 218 on a Discharge Petition is the ultimate legislative quixotic endeavor. If, in the end, a “clean” CR ends up on the floor it will be there because the GOP Leadership allowed it to get there and, at that point, whether any Republicans vote for it will depend on a wide variety of factors. Making the claim that it’s obvious that such a “clean” CR would pass today outside of the context of how it might get to the floor, then, really doesn’t amount to anything other than speculation that is of little real value.