House Republican leaders have been wearing a scarlet 79 since November, and now they are doing all they can to tear it off.
Only 79 Republicans voted for a November budget deal that set the table for the omnibus bill expected on the House floor Friday, fewer than a third of the votes needed to pass the measure. And during negotiations over the omnibus spending measure to seal that budget deal, Democrats would not let Speaker Paul Ryan and his team forget it.
Being reminded that they can put up only about a third of the votes needed to pass the bill hurt their leverage to secure policies they were seeking, several Republican members said, and they are hoping to have a higher number to point to next year—and more policy wins.
“I feel like it should be branded in my forehead,” Republican Rep. Tom Cole said of the number. “And it’s a fair talking point to use. Our guys need to understand that you can’t ask for the sun, the moon, and the stars with … 79 on [the budget deal]. From their standpoint, [Democrats are] saying, ‘We have to provide two out of three votes and a presidential signature; now tell me again why I need to give you this?’ It’s a fair point to make.”
The push is part of House Republican leaders’ attempt to end the “hope yes, vote no” pattern among their members, following up on Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s letter to members last month asking them to support the bill. GOP leaders even included a measure ending the ban on crude-oil exports, a huge Republican priority, in the omnibus bill to entice votes.