But tea party conservatives were restless with the deal, and beginning Wednesday night, conservative bloggers jumped on new independent cost estimates by the Congressional Budget Office that the deal would have only minimal impact on the deficit before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Any lingering hope of keeping the Republican vote well over 200 soon faded. Faced with what were 59 defections, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reached out to his Democratic counterpart, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, for help.
Ultimately, 81 Democrats backed the bill, but not before a bit of political theater as the leadership milked the moment by holding them back from voting until the final minute.
“This bill must pass today,” exclaimed Washington Rep. Norm Dicks, the burly ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, who most resembled an impatient Newfoundland on a leash. “I am so happy.”
Behind the comic, Hoyer stood out as the only member of the elected Democratic leadership to step forward. Influential opinion makers in the caucus joined him: Reps. Steve Israel of New York and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland — current and past Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairmen, respectively — and Reps. Rob Andrews of New Jersey and Anna Eshoo of California, both close to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But even with Obama’s investment in the deal, Pelosi took a hard line, saying she felt “no ownership of that or any responsibility to it.”
Posted Wednesday morning, the CBO data that caused Boehner such trouble credited his deal with significant long-term savings but tripped him up by pegging the impact this fiscal year at just $352 million.