ABC News’ Rick Klein and Viviana Hurtado Report: With President Obama headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday to court congressional Republicans, House leaders asked rank-and-file Republicans Tuesday morning to oppose the massive stimulus package when it comes up for a vote Wednesday.
On his way into the caucus meeting, Boehner called on the president to lobby his fellow Democrats to agree to changes in the package.
"We’re looking forward to the president coming today and having a dialogue with us about how we can have an economic recovery package that works for America," he told reporters. "We have concerns that the plan House Democrats are going to bring to the floor will not work. And at the end of the day, I think what our big moves will be today are to ask the president to help us. Help us make this plan better so that it will put Americans back to work.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told Republicans that the $825 billion House version of the bill should not be supported by Republicans, unless major changes are made.
A Boehner press aide told ABC News: “While we certainly appreciate the willingness of the President to come to Capitol Hill, the problem remains with Congressional Democrats who are moving forward with little regard toward improving the bill. Unless the Speaker agrees to make changes, then congressional Democrats should not count on our support.”
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., joined Boehner in urging Republicans to vote "no" on the stimulus package.
This is not unexpected, given the wide Republican opposition to the House version of the bill. And it leaves open the possibility of Republicans supporting the final package, if negotiations with the Senate and the Obama administration produce a different mix of tax cuts and spending.
But it’s a harsh welcome to partisan politics for a president who is making a dramatic gesture in coming to the Hill to meet with Republicans Tuesday.
A House Republican lawmaker tells ABC News GOP legislators prepared part of their talking points in opposition to the Economic Stimulus bill at today’s morning Conference, before their scheduled afternoon meeting with President Obama.
Writing to ABC News from inside the caucus that just wrapped up, this lawmaker says, "The question Republicans are asking is this: "Does the President support everything in the House bill? Contraceptives to ‘stimulate’? Re-sodding the National Mall? NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] funding to lift economy?"
This legislator says the wide spread belief is that Republican support for this bill dwindled after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s exclusive appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos". On Sunday, she defended some of the bill’s spending measures such as hundreds of millions of dollars on contraception, or coupons to help people convert to digital television.
At the meeting, Republicans discussed President Obama’s options to win back GOP House support, with a stimulus bill focused on infrastructure investment and tax relief at the top of their list. If Mr.. Obama can’t convince House Democrats to cut spending, this lawmakers says, "then the President will have less credibility on fiscal responsibility in the future. If he cuts this back, he will have a huge win."
Almost three quarters of House Republicans, plus staff, attended this morning’s Conference. The bill is to set to be debated in the House today, and voted on tomorrow.
ABC’s Teddy Davis contributed to this report.
UPDATE: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., criticized GOP leaders for putting out marching orders before their meeting with the president.
“They’ve issued that [request that members vote against the bill] before even discussing that with the president of the United States,” Hoyer said. “They’ve taken a political stance.”
Hoyer said Republicans will have an opportunity to offer amendments — as well as a complete substitute measure — on the House floor.
He also questioned whether Republican leaders want to find a package they can support, saying they have set an unrealistic bar by insisting that their ideas carry the day.
“Being bipartisan does not mean having to lay down and say, ‘We’ll do whatever you want,’ ” Hoyer said. “Being bipartisan is saying, ‘We’ll talk, we’ll figure it out. If we can agree, we’ll agree.’ ”
“It takes two people to tango, and it takes two parties and two groups to be bipartisan,” he added.
He said he is hopeful that a “significant number” of Republicans buck their party leadership and support the bill.