WASHINGTON — The
House Republican leaders rushed the measure to the floor after their fractious majority failed to agree on what, if any, conditions it would try to attach to the must-pass legislation. In the end they submitted a bill with no strings, leaving it to the chamber's Democratic minority to provide most of the votes for passage. Only 28
Coming on the heels of last month's bipartisan spending bill, the debt ceiling agreement could allow lawmakers to turn their sights back to legislative and policy issues after having been consumed by the budget and spending battles since 2011.
Partisan conflicts could simply shift to campaign mode as both parties prepare for the upcoming midterm election, in which Republicans hope to win control of the Senate. Although a fall deadline looms to pass legislation funding the government beyond Oct. 1, few expect a major fight so close to the election.
For Republicans, their retreat in the debt ceiling standoff marks a realization that their campaign to slash government spending has run its course and at least partly backfired with voters. They bore the brunt of the blame for last fall's 16-day
As late as Monday evening, party leaders were seeking to build support for tying a debt limit increase to a proposal to reverse recent cuts made to some veterans' pensions. But it was soon clear that Republicans could not pass such a plan on their own, leading House Speaker
"When you don't have 218 votes, you have nothing," Boehner said to reporters, referring to his difficulty in obtaining a majority in the House.
For Boehner — who once said he would insist on spending cuts equal to any new borrowing authorized — the sudden reversal was seen by some as a sign that the speaker can't corral his restive troops. He made a similar embarrassing about-face on immigration last week, having called in January for a renewed effort to introduce a GOP reform bill this year only to back down amid fierce opposition from his right flank.
But he and other Republicans decided it was smarter to move beyond an issue that has divided Republicans for the last year and focus instead on reclaiming the Senate majority.
During a rambunctious internal strategy discussion Monday night, Boehner told rank-and-file members that he wanted the debt ceiling debate to be the last major internal fight the party would have before the November election. Republicans hope that clearing the issue from the agenda for the remainder of the year will give them a stronger hand.
"I think that the leadership has come to the conclusion that we can't get anything done until we change the Senate," said Rep.
So even though Boehner called Tuesday's outcome a disappointment, it reflected his strengthening hold on the speaker's gavel since the October government shutdown, which he blamed partly on conservative groups who had stoked internal divisions. Boehner had been nudging members toward this outcome since last month, arguing the party needed to pick its battles more carefully.
As soon as Boehner announced the course of action, conservative groups pounced. Several organizations rallied lawmakers to vote against it and one, the Senate Conservatives Fund, launched an online petition to replace Boehner as speaker.
Striking a somewhat sarcastic tone, Boehner left Tuesday's news conference singing, "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day."
To protect most Republicans from having to support the measure, Boehner and other top leaders voted yes. But Rep.
Boehner sought to put the onus on
House Minority Leader
"The debt limit shows [and] comprehensive immigration reform shows that the Republican Party is a deeply divided party whose leaders have great difficulty … finding followers, and who are out of sync with the American people," he said to reporters. "That is a party that is rudderless and should be rejected by the American people."
"It is a difficult issue for us," said Lankford, who voted against the measure. "Debt's not fun for us. And I know the Democrats just want to be able to add debt and say, 'We'll work it out one day.' This is not where we are."
Senate Majority Leader
"We'll have a discussion," McConnell said. "We'll find out in the next couple of days how this is going to be handled in the Senate."
"I just think we go from one extreme to another," he said. "Isn't there some choice in America between defaulting on your debt and doing nothing?"