The GOP’s moderate revolt is sounding more like a moderate whimper.
Rep. Jon Runyan, a New Jersey Republican who has publicly said he would vote for a “clean” continuing resolution, has been part of the moderate meetings that Rep. Peter T. King of New York has been hosting in an effort to end the shutdown as soon as possible.
And Runyan, better known for his 13-year career as an imposing NFL lineman than for his congressional prowess, gave CQ Roll Call a candid look into the mindset of the moderate revolt.
The quick summary: Don’t count on them to sign that Democratic discharge petition.
Runyan said the discharge petition wouldn’t work because it would take too long; it wouldn’t ripen, he said, until after Oct. 17 — the debt ceiling deadline.
“It’s going to get real shitty on the 17th,” Runyan said, adding that Republicans have to find a solution on that issue.
“I’d like to have it solved before that, but we are where we are,” he said.
So what can moderates do in the meantime?
“It’s discussions we’re still having,” he said.
One rallying point for the moderates, particularly for Republican Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, is a repeal of the medical devices tax. Dent seems to believe Democrats would agree to an otherwise-clean CR if it included a repeal of the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices.
But Runyan doesn’t see that tax being the linchpin.
“My biggest thing here is, I think everybody has dug in so hard, what’s going to break it? I don’t think that does,” Runyan said.
On Friday, another member of the GOP moderate meetings, Rep. Michael G. Grimm of New York, said the solution was a “grand bargain.”
“You can’t force the speaker to bring a clean CR, that’s No. 1,” Grimm said. “You know people are talking about a discharge; do you know how long that would take to happen? So that’s not an option. And a clean CR I don’t think would pass the floor anyway. At this point, I think that ship has sailed, because I don’t think you have enough Democrat votes to cover those you would lose on the Republican side.”
Grimm said his goal was to find a solution that can actually work. “And it looks like the only thing that can work is a dialogue,” he said.
“There’s got to be a dialogue, and maybe there is this, whatever you want to call it, ‘grand bargain,'” Grimm said.
While Speaker John A. Boehner reiterated to his conference Friday that he wanted to take the CR and the debt ceiling separately, many in his own conference believe the two issues have melded together.
And Republicans see the Oct. 17 deadline as an impetus for the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution, and they seem willing to wait for that deadline.
“You have to weigh your options, and you have to see. At the end of the day, 218 is what matters in the House,” Grimm said.
The moderates, for now at least, seem content with dialogue; they don’t seem willing to use any other tools to force a clean CR, including a discharge petition or voting down a previous question to give Democrats control of the floor.
“Problem is you have to have enough support to get something like that done,” Runyan said.
“You put something up like that and then it falls flat on its face because somebody decides to put their foot down, what did you accomplish? You got to be ready to go,” Runyan said.
“If you’re going to play poker with somebody and call them, you better be holding the cards,” he added.
Runyan said any tactic producing a clean CR can be blocked in the Senate or the House.
And then those Republicans who turned their back on their conference would be left on the outside looking in.
“What did you accomplish?” Runyan asked.
When the issue of getting “primary’d” was brought up as a result of turning on the GOP, Runyan laughed and nodded his head in agreement.