In an incredibly lopsided vote, the House approved a measure Tuesday to raise the nation's borrowing limit through March 2015, a swift decision made by Republican leaders when they realized they lacked the support needed to advance other proposals that might have raised the debt limit with strings attached.
“When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday morning as he conceded that other plans lacked sufficient support. “We’ve seen that before, and we’ve seen it again.”
The successful vote required stitching together a coalition of virtually all Democrats and just a handful of Republicans -- and leaders in both parties succeeded. So how did it go? Let's recap:
Vote tally: 221 to 201.
How many Republicans voted for the bill?: 28.
How many Democrats voted for the bill?: 193.
How many Republicans voted against the bill?: 199.
How many Democrats voted against the bill?: 2.
How many lawmakers didn't vote?: 10.
Votes notes: Talk about a violation of the "Hastert Rule." (Even though there's some dispute about whether it's really a thing.) Most legislation comes to the House floor when a majority of Republicans support it -- a rule (or maybe not) of former House speaker Dennis Haster (R-Ill.).
But Tuesday's vote was clearly an exception.
When Boehner announced plans for the vote in the morning, he warned that Democrats would need to deliver every one of their 199 votes to support the measure, because he couldn't deliver much more than 20 GOP "yes" votes. About an hour later, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned that he might only be able to deliver around 180 votes, conceding that at least a few Democrats might opt to vote against the package for political reasons.
During the vote, Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were seen conferring about the particulars, with Pelosi especially keeping a close eye on the vote tally.
Ultimately, Boehner and his lieutenants found 28 Republicans willing to back the plan. Boehner voted yes (as speaker, he rarely votes). So did House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the lead deputy whip also was on board. Ditto John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), two reliable leadership allies.
Several committee chairmen also voted yes, including Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Howard "Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.). Three retiring members, Reps. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), joined the group.
All the other GOP "yes" votes came from the East and West coasts: Reps. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Peter King (R-N.Y.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Gary Miller (R-Calif.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) and David Valadao (R-Calif.).
Of this bunch, at least nine are expected to face challenging reelection races, including Collins, Dent, Fitzpatrick and Valadao.
There were several notable Republican "no" votes, including the fourth-ranking Republican, Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), a leadership lieutenant, and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a close Boehner ally. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), another retiring member and close friend of Boehner, was absent Tuesday and didn't vote.
Democrats, meanwhile, demonstrated incredible unity. Just two members -- Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) voted no. Initially, Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), a moderate who is retiring, also voted no, but eventually switched his vote. Barrow faces the most difficult reelection race of any Democrat this year, while Matheson is also retiring but expected to someday seek statewide office.
It was an incredibly lopsided way to pass a bill -- and Democrats are expected to crow in the coming days that they -- and not Republicans -- were able to save the nation's credit rating and help avoid another potential economic meltdown.
In addition to Latham, the most notable member not voting was Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who's been generally absent for several months because his wife is seriously ill. This was the first big vote for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (R-N.Y.) since last May. She's been out while recovering from lung cancer and plans to retire after her current term.