(Photo by Larry Downing-Pool/Getty Images)
Hide Caption

House passes debt ceiling increase

a a a a
Share this story

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans backed away from a battle over the government's debt cap on Tuesday and permitted President Barack Obama's Democratic allies to drive quick passage of a measure to increase the government's borrowing cap without any concessions from the White House.

The 221-201 vote came hours after Speaker John Boehner announced that his fractured party would relent.

Just 28 Republicans voted for the measure, including Boehner. But 193 Democrats more than compensated for the low support among Republicans.

RELATED: From immigration to trade, inaction evident in Congress 
MORE: New House GOP plan as debt-limit deadline nears

The move risks more displeasure from the tea party but came after most Republicans in the House made clear they had no taste for another high-stakes fight with President Barack Obama over the nation's debt ceiling, which must be raised so the government can borrow money to pay all of its bills.

The bill would permit the Treasury Department to borrow normally for another 13 months, diffusing the chance of a debt crisis well past the November elections and providing time for a newly elected Congress to decide how to handle the issue.

Just Monday, Republicans suggested pairing the debt measure with legislation to roll back a recent cut in the inflation adjustment of pension benefits for working age military retirees. Democrats insisted on a debt measure completely clean of unrelated legislation.

"The full faith and credit (of the United States) should be unquestioned and it is not negotiable," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The vote comes four months after Washington defused a government shutdown and debt crisis that burned Republicans politically - an experience they did not want to repeat.

Tuesday's developments, which many Capitol Hill insiders saw coming, mark a reversal of the GOP's strategy of trying to use the debt limit to force spending cuts or other concessions on Obama. The president yielded to such demands in 2011 - before his re-election - but has since boxed in Republicans by refusing to negotiate.

"I am disappointed that Democrats have walked away from the table," said Dave Camp, R-Mich., the glum chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. "But for as disappointed as I am, I cannot in good conscience let the Democrats' refusal to engage, lead to a default."

Boehner, R-Ohio, made the announcement after conservatives failed to rally around his latest plan, floated Monday, to tie lifting the debt ceiling to a measure to reverse cuts to military pensions that were enacted less than two months ago. Earlier plans to tie a debt cap increase to approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or repeal of part of the new health care law failed as well, stymied by a group of hard line conservatives who vowed never to vote for increasing the government's debt, which stands at more than $17 trillion.

The measure does not raise the debt limit by a set amount but would suspend it through March 15, 2015, to allow Treasury to borrow the money it needs to pay bills like Social Security benefits, payments on government debt, and checks for federal workers.

The move reflects a return to the old ways of handling the politically tricky debt ceiling vote in which the president's party is expected to carry most of the load to pass it.

"We'll let the Democrats put the votes up," the speaker said. "We'll put a minimum number of (GOP) votes up to get it passed."

"That's how it's supposed to work," said Vice President Joe Biden at the Capitol after swearing in the newest senator, John Walsh, D-Mont.

Boehner said his inability to assemble 218 GOP votes - enough to win a floor vote - for any debt limit plan left him no alternative but to turn to Democrats.

"When you don't have 218 votes, you have nothing," Boehner said. "We've seen that before and we see it again."

The White House applauded the move. Gene Sperling, director of the White House's National Economic Council, said the administration hopes Tuesday's development means "that the tactic of threatening default or threatening the full faith and credit of the United States for budget debates is over, off the table and never is going to happen again. And if so that would, I think, be a boost for confidence and investment in the US."

Obama's refusal to negotiate, GOP disunity, and Boehner's determination to avoid the possibility of a market-cratering default on U.S. obligations gave the Ohio Republican little choice but to announce the vote on a "clean" debt ceiling increase.

"It's disappointing but we have an intractable White House," said Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif. "This is a hard deal for us but it's also important that we keep the country operating and the financial markets stable, so this is the thing we have to take until somehow there's a change in attitude in the Senate or the White House or a change of occupancy of the Senate or the White House."

The announcement amounted to resigned defeat for a party that has sought to use must-pass debt ceiling measures as leverage to force spending cuts on Democrats. Republicans won more than $2 trillion in spending cuts in a 2011 showdown, but gave Obama two debt limit increases last year with only modest add-ons.

"The Democrats got burned when we negotiated and that led to the sequester, and we learned our lesson," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. "And the Republicans got burned when they shut the government down."

The House voted 326-90 Tuesday on separate legislation to restore full cost-of-living increases that were to have been cut by 1 percent for retirees under 62. The cuts, which had just passed in December, were backed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Repealing them would cost $7 billion over the coming decade, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday.

The reduction caused an uproar among advocates for veterans, and lawmakers in both parties are scrambling to repeal it.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More National News
Woman finds body while hunting for Easter eggs
Woman finds body while hunting for Easter eggs

A Tennessee woman says she made a grisly discovery while hunting for Easter eggs in her back yard with her 3-year-old son: a dead body.

REPLAY: SpaceX rocket blasts off from Cape
REPLAY: SpaceX rocket blasts off from Cape

A SpaceX commercial rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral on schedule Friday afternoon and is heading to the International Space Station.

U.S. power grid vulnerable, experts warn
U.S. power grid vulnerable, experts warn

“The destruction of more than three transmission substations would cause long-term blackouts in many areas of the country,”…

Local runners make emotional return to Boston
Local runners make emotional return to Boston

Several local runners are heading to Boston this weekend to make a statement to the world.

Obama: Anti-Semitic Ukrainian leaflet sickening
Obama: Anti-Semitic Ukrainian leaflet sickening

President Barack Obama's national security adviser says anti-Semitic leaflets distributed in Ukraine were "utterly sickening"…

Ohio woman finds bird leg in Dole spinach bag
Ohio woman finds bird leg in Dole spinach bag

An Ohio woman, who eats a salad nearly every day and makes spinach smoothies, has lost her appetite for her favorite vegetable after making a…

Boston Marathon runner: 'Let's show these jerks'
Boston Marathon runner: 'Let's show these jerks'

After running more than 25 miles, exhaustion was setting in for Roswitha Goossens-Winter, but she was determined to complete the 2013 Boston…

Mich. judge to woman: 'I hope you die in prison'
Mich. judge to woman: 'I hope you die in prison'

If a judge could throw the book at a woman, he managed to do so Wednesday.

Confession: Dad kills son to play video games
Confession: Dad kills son to play video games

A 24-year-old Florida man confessed to killing his crying infant Thursday morning so he could continue playing Xbox games, according to the…

Baby squirrel gets cast for broken ankle
Baby squirrel gets cast for broken ankle

What a sweet little baby squirrel.