The House on Friday narrowly approved Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) debt-ceiling framework, one day after leaders postponed the vote and revamped the measure to secure support from conservatives and four days before the deadline for Congress to raise the federal borrowing limit or else send the country into default.
The new Boehner debt plan – which would allow for a short-term increase in the country’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit but would make a second increase dependent on Congress sending to the states a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution – passed the House shortly before 6:30 p.m. on party-line vote, 218 to 210.
It’s unlikely to progress far in the Senate, where all 53 Senate Democrats oppose the measure. But Friday’s vote paves the way for leaders to assemble a bipartisan compromise that will need to pass both chambers and be signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday if the country is to avoid default.
On Friday, all 188 House Democrats present voted against the Boehner measure. 218 Republicans approved the Boehner plan, while 22 GOP members -- including 11 freshmen – voted “no,” evidently unswayed by the GOP leadership’s days-long lobbying effort and Boehner’s modifications to the bill. Five members did not vote.
Notably, the entire South Carolina delegation – five Republicans and one Democrat – voted “no.”
The 22 Republicans voting “no” were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Chip Cravaack (Minn.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Trey Gowdy (S.C.), Tom Graves (Ga.), Tim Huelskamp (Kansas), Tim Johnson (Ill.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Steve King (Iowa), Tom Latham (Iowa), Connie Mack (Fla.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Ron Paul (Texas), Tim Scott (S.C.), Steve Southerland (Fla.), Joe Walsh (Ill.) and Joe Wilson (S.C.).
The mood in the chamber during Friday’s vote was tense.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and other members of House leadership scrambled to get their “yes” votes in line, while lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were standing up and looking expectantly at the electronic board above the gallery that keeps track of members’ votes.
A few minutes into the vote, McCarthy approached freshman Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) near the well of the chamber and asked him, “How come you didn’t vote?”
Long paced around the chamber as McCarthy lobbied other members.
With about six minutes remaining, McCarthy approached Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) at the back of the chamber and coaxed him to vote. LaTourette cast his vote – a “yes” – and the vote tally rose to 212-to-203.
The Boehner plan passed the 216 mark with about 3 minutes and 45 seconds remaining on the clock; a few members lightly applauded. A few moments later, Long cast his vote – he was a “yes.”
Several other members -- including Scott, Latham and Duncan -- waited until the very end to cast their votes; they all voted “no.”
The vote followed a raucous floor debate that saw standing ovations – and jeers – on both sides.
Boehner rose to speak shortly after 5:30 p.m. In a forceful floor speech lasting about five minutes, he defended his debt-ceiling framework, even as he acknowledged that “the bill before us still isn’t perfect” and that “no member would argue that it is.”
The speaker drew applause from the GOP side when he announced that House Republicans are “advancing the great cause of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution,” and once more when he declared that Republicans “would not increase the debt ceiling without serious cuts in spending and without serious reforms to the way we spend people’s money.”
But moments later, Boehner was met with groans from Democrats when he said that “not one time did the administration ever put any plan on the table.”
“I stuck my neck out a mile to try to get an agreement with the president of the United States,” he continued.
Some Democrats responded with boos and hisses.
He went on: “A lot of people in this town can never say yes. A lot of people can never say yes,” he repeated over laughter and boos from Democrats.
Then, raising his voice, Boehner declared: “This House has acted, and it’s time for the administration and time for our colleagues across the aisle: Put something on the table!”
The Republican side of the chamber burst into cheers and applause, giving the speaker a standing ovation.
“And yes,” Boehner said, “people can be critical of what we’ve done, but where are the other ideas?”
Toward the end of Boehner’s floor speech, as the speaker was again emphasizing the importance of a balanced budget amendment, a voice from the Democratic side of the chamber cried out: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
But the chamber was overwhelmed with applause from the Republican side and a standing ovation from nearly all GOP members as Boehner finished his speech.
Members greeted the speaker with hugs and pats on the back as he exited the chamber down an aisle on the Republican side. Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and David Dreier (R-Calif.) congratulated Boehner as he left, as did freshman Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.).
Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) threw up her hands and blew three kisses at Boehner as he passed her way and into the cloakroom at the back of the chamber.
Following Boehner on the Democratic side was one of the House’s newest members, Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.), who this spring won a special election in a race many Democrats touted as a referendum on Republicans’ plans to overhaul Medicare in their 2012 budget.
“Is the gentlewoman opposed to this bill?” Hochul was asked as she rose to speak.
Her response garnered rowdy applause from Democrats:
“Oh, yes, I am opposed to this bill.”
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