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House Republican whip confident GOP debt limit plan will pass and warns next step up to Democrats

<i>Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images</i><br/>House Majority Whip Tom Emmer arrives for a GOP caucus meeting at the US Capitol on January 10 in Washington
Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer arrives for a GOP caucus meeting at the US Capitol on January 10 in Washington

By Lauren Fox and Haley Talbot, CNN

House Republican Whip Tom Emmer sounded upbeat Monday as he vowed Republicans will have the votes to pass their debt ceiling bill later this week, making the case he’s made to members all weekend that a vote against the package would hand President Joe Biden and Democrats a victory.

Emmer, the top House GOP vote counter, declined to give specific timing for a vote, but he doubled down that leaders will bring the measure to the floor this week. “Well, that’s up to the speaker,” he said when asked what day the bill would come to the floor.

House GOP leaders are pushing for a floor vote Wednesday, so long as they have the 218 votes needed to pass the bill through their narrowly divided chamber, according to a person familiar with the matter.

As top House Republicans strike an optimistic tone over the GOP debt limit bill, there still is no guarantee the package will pass nor that it will bring the White House to the negotiating table. But Republican leaders, including Emmer, have been impressing upon their members that it is the best shot they have to show unity, to cut spending and to make it clear that Republicans have the discipline to govern.

Asked about concerns raised by Republican members on a range of issues from stronger work requirements on Medicaid to a repeal of ethanol subsidies, Emmer told CNN the bill is closed and isn’t open for changes at this point.

Asked specifically about Rep. Matt Gaetz, who tweeted about changes related to work requirements he wanted to see, Emmer said the Florida Republican was a valuable member of the team, but he has a choice.

“This does have strong work requirements. But remember, we’re trying to thread the needle with all of our members. And no, I do not expect the language is going to change,” Emmer said.

“The bill is closed,” he continued. “The speaker has told us that and I expect that when we get to the floor when that comes we’re gonna pass the bill because look, your choice is this: You either govern like the House Republicans and Kevin McCarthy have been doing since we took the new majority we’ve led and they’ve been following, or if you want to vote against this, and I’m not saying that Matt or anybody else does, you’re literally giving Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer a blank check to do more damage that they’ve already done to this country.”

For Emmer and leadership, the effort to win over GOP support and unify the conference behind McCarthy’s debt ceiling plan didn’t just start last week or over the weekend when the whip team ramped up their efforts with round the clock phone calls.

For months, leadership has been strategically laying the groundwork with the so-called five families of their conference, outside conservative groups that hold sway over members and even with Republican senators in an effort to find a position that could unify members rather than divide them and weaken McCarthy’s negotiating hand with the White House.

“Our Speaker has been in touch with various senators, and I also am told from one of my good friends that is over there who will go unnamed, but Leader McConnell has been very supportive to their whole group about what we’re trying to accomplish on this side. So again, I think what you’re seeing is Republicans are putting the country first, we’re going to move something that solves this problem,” Emmer said.

It wasn’t a coincidence that over the last few days, Former OMB Director Russ Vought, Heritage Action and Freedom Works all coalesced around the leadership debt ceiling plan. From the outset those stakeholders were part of the conversation including playing a pivotal role in the beginning of making sure that that entitlements like social security and Medicare were not on the chopping block, according to a GOP aide familiar.

Asked about his leadership style, Emmer said he believes the best strategy has been to be upfront with his members.

“It’s really just giving people the facts without being a smart aleck. It’s just taking telling people directly. I think our members, they just appreciate blunt honesty,” he said.

Asked if the leadership team was united, Emmer dismissed reports that the team hasn’t been.

“I think the whole team is playing well. The speaker can work with anybody that he wants to within his realm of the speaker’s office. That’s been great,” Emmer said. “Steve Scalise has been doing a fantastic job as his team. I think we’re unified group and I think really people who want to talk about that, they recognize that we are unified.”

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CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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