100 House Republicans Could Oppose Debt Compromise

Vote scheduled for tonight as party leaders scramble for support.

ByABC News
August 1, 2011, 9:37 AM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2011— -- President Obama and top congressional leaders breathed a collective sigh of relief Sunday night after reaching a tentative deal to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit and avert U.S. default. But now they have to make it official.

The House is expected to vote on the plan later tonight and, assuming it passes, the Senate could consider it tomorrow.

But House Republican leaders are getting increasingly nervous about whether the debt deal will pass because they fear there may not be enough Democratic yes votes to get them over the top.

A top GOP House leadership aide told ABC News that if Democrats are not actively trying to get votes, "then we should be nervous ... I hope the White House has a contingency plan, like sending the President up here to plead for votes."

It is clear that both sides will have to find votes for the package. Up to 100 Republicans could vote against their party, which means House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will have to deliver a good portion of the Democratic caucus votes -- up to 75 -- for a bill that has gotten tepid response at best. Many Democrats had pledged not to vote for a bill that relied solely on spending cuts and did not off-set them with tax hikes. This bill does not.

"As my son would say, we just got to suck it up, buttercup," said Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, of the need to support the bill. "At the end of the day, we're going to do it, because it is the right thing to move forward. It's going to be tough, and we'll get criticism for things we could have done, but we are where we are and we need to move forward."

In the House, the math could be much more difficult as leaders from both parties tried to put the onus for finding votes on the other.

"Republicans I presume are going to have to get the votes," said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the Democrats' top vote counter.

After meeting with his Republican colleagues, House Speaker John Boehner was insistent that the deal, however, imperfect, should be passed.

"It gives us the best shot we've had in the 20 years I've been here to build support for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to put the fiscal handcuffs on this Congress that are sorely needed," Boehner said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Boehner's chief deputy, sought to mollify Republican members frustrated at the level of spending cuts by comparing changing government spending to turning around an aircraft carrier -- it doesn't happen immediately.

And while many Republicans have already said they would oppose the bill, they are not actively opposing the deal.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said on ABC News' "Top Line" that he would vote no, even though the process has been a win for Republicans.

"The fact that we're now having a serious discussion about debts where we're talking about cutting spending, that there's no tax increases that we're talking about right now, that's a huge -- at least moral -- victory, I think for a lot of fiscal conservatives that were concerned about the financial health of this country," he said.

The compromise's fine print has plenty of critics on both sides of the aisle, leaving leaders of both parties scrambling to sell the package to their respective members and secure the votes they need to get it passed.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report this morning suggesting the debt framework would trim government spending by $2.1 trillion over 10 years.

Many Democrats are angry that the spending cuts are not coupled with tax increases, as Obama had promised in seeking a "balanced approach," while others have decried a lack of immunity for social service programs from spending cuts.