House GOP lawmakers seemed to have forged a greater sense of unity emerging from a three-day retreat in Virginia last week, after party leaders rolled out their plan to avoid a showdown with President Obama by temporarily raising the federal debt limit.
But there are already some signs that House Republican leaders still have a way to go to clinch the support of the party’s most fiscally conservative members — including some who split with their leaders over the funding for Superstorm Sandy and the “fiscal cliff” tax deal earlier this year.
In a “Conversations With Conservatives” event on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the lawmakers said they were pleased that the House Republican leadership vowed at the retreat to make sure the across-the-board “sequester” cuts — or equivalent reductions elsewhere in the budget — stay on the books, that the nation is put on a path to a balanced budget in 10 years, and that the next increase in the debt ceiling will be offset with dollar-for-dollar spending cuts.
“I am actually OK with what leadership is doing right now because they actually have an agenda,” said Rep. Raul R. Labrador, an Idaho Republican elected in the tea party-fueled GOP surge in 2010. “As long as they keep that premise, I think many conservative are going to be OK with that.”
But after reading the text of the proposal, others said they were getting cold feet.
“Over the weekend, I leaned ‘yes,’ but I am probably sliding back to more undecided to lean ‘no,’” said Rep. Jeff Duncan, South Carolina Republican and another member of the 2010 class.
Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky said they do not support the plan, which the Obama administration signaled Tuesday it was ready to accept.
Mr. Huelskamp, one of the most vocal critics of House Speaker John A. Boehner inside the Republican caucus, said that the GOP should put forward a bolder plan that balances the federal budget in a shorter period of time — warning that the longer the nation puts off tackling its most pressing fiscal issues, the more it jeopardizes its credit rating.
“If we are going to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, it is one thing to have a paragraph in the budget. It is another thing to actually pass things on the floor,” he said. “I think it is time we actually took that chance, and put out what we are for in a detailed manner because these are very serious times.”
Rep. David Schweikert, Arizona Republican, warned that the next three months will go a long way in showing how serious GOP leaders are about getting the nation’s fiscal house in order.
“In many ways, in 90 days, this is going to be the ultimate test in the relevancy of those we entrust with those leadership positions, and I believe there would be hell to pay if they squandered this,” Mr. Schweikert said.