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Posted at 04:35 PM ET, 04/14/2011

About one-third of House Democrats hold their votes on budget deal until near the end

Updated, 4:35 p.m.

The House began voting at 2:35 p.m. on the bipartisan budget deal that would keep the government running through late September while cutting $38.5 billion across federal agencies.

But it wasn’t until a full 23 minutes later, at 2:58 p.m., that the deal passed the 218-vote threshold necessary for passage — with about one-third of the House Democratic caucus waiting until the 218-vote line was passed before casting their votes.

The late voting by Democrats was an example of a tactic often used by members on both side of the aisle, in which members of the minority party withhold their votes in order to force as many members as possible of the majority party to vote in favor of a measure.

In the case of the budget deal, Democrats wanted to force Republicans to pass the deal on their own, even though it was evident to members of both parties that the measure would eventually require bipartisan support for passage.

Members of the House Republican leadership were among the first to cast their votes in favor of the measure. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) were some of the first few dozen out of the gate.

(The vote by Boehner represented a rare instance of the speaker casting a vote; traditionally, the speaker does not vote.)

Most of the House Democratic leadership, by contrast, waited until the deal was on track to win 218 votes before they cast their own votes. Aside from House Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), who cast an early “no” vote, most members of leadership waited to vote. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) cast his “yes” vote as the number of Republicans supporting the bill neared 173; most Democrats who had been waiting cast their votes after Hoyer did. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who earlier Thursday declined to reveal how she planned to vote, ended up opposing the measure.

McCarthy, who is his party’s chief vote-counter, stood on the Republican side of the House chamber carefully watching as the electronic boards above the reporters’ gallery lit up indicating members’ votes. Every now and then, he turned back to his desk to take down notes or check his BlackBerry. Standing a few steps away from him was Cantor, who was engaged in conversation with another member. Boehner, along with his spokesman, Michael Steel, watched the vote count from in the rear of the chamber on the Republican side.

As 3 p.m. neared, the vote count stood at 204 to 138, 14 votes short of passage. Seventy-two of the 192 House Democrats — more than a third of the party’s members — had yet to vote; 19 members on the Republican side had yet to vote. A few moments later, the count stood at 211 to 140, with 66 Democrats and 16 Republicans still not voting.

At 2:58, immediately after the 218-vote threshold was passed, the vote tally jumped up to 258-to-164, with only eight Democrats and three Republicans not voting.

The final tally was 260-to-167, with 179 Republicans and 81 Democrats voting in favor and 59 Republicans and 108 Democrats opposed. Six members did not vote.

By  |  04:35 PM ET, 04/14/2011

 
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