WASHINGTON - Minnesota Republican Chip Cravaack appears to be resisting calls from House Speaker John Boehner to vote yes on the Speaker's plan to raise the debt ceiling.
Cravaack's Capitol Hill office was filled with staffers drinking Cherry Coke and watching cable news for updates on the standoff that's developed between Boehner and fiscal conservatives who say the Speaker's plan doesn't make deep enough offsetting cuts in federal spending.
A vote on the bill was originally scheduled for around 6 PM Thursday. But Boehner's bill was pulled from the floor at the last minute after it became clear to Republican leaders that they lacked the 217 votes needed for passage. The Republican caucus has 240 members and Democrats say none of their members will cross the aisle to support the Boehner bill.
While Cravaack didn't emerge from his office, a Cravaack aide said the congressman's arm was "black and blue" from the metaphorical arm-twisting being applied by the House GOP leadership. Other aides said the office had received a series of visitors, presumably Republican leaders, urging Cravaack to vote yes. One aide said Cravaack continued to "research" the debt ceiling issue.
As recently as this afternoon, Cravaack told MPR News that he remained undecided about Boehner's debt ceiling bill, but at this point it's clear that he would prefer a bill that makes even deeper cuts than what the Speaker is proposing.
The position of Minnesota's other three Republican House members is now clearer after Rep. Erik Paulsen told MPR News this evening that he planned to vote yes for Boehner's measure. Paulsen was reassured by after at the additional spending cuts made in a tweaked version of the bill. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who's also running for president, has pledged to vote no on the bill. Rep. John Kline has been a vocal supporter of it.
Still, even if Boehner gets the bill through the House tonight, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to hold a vote immediately after the House vote. All 53 Senate Democrats, including Minnesota DFL Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, have promised to vote down Boehner's bill.
UPDATE: The House leadership called off the vote last night around 10:30 PM after deciding to make adjustments to the bill to attract recalcitrant members. Cravaack remained unavailable for comment and his staff would not say how the congressman planned to vote on the new bill that's expected on the House floor later today.