House Declines to Raise Debt Ceiling, Sets Table for Debate


In an unsurprising vote, Republicans block the president's wishes for a stand-alone hike in the federal limit

John Boehner - Harry Hamburg AP - banner.jpg

The House voted 97-318 on Tuesday to reject a bill to allow a $2.4 trillion hike in the nation's debt limit without accompanying spending cuts. The pre-ordained, and entirely unsurprising, outcome was embraced by the Republican majority as a clear message of the measure's unpopularity among the American people, while Democrats derided it as a "sham."

"The fact is that what's happening on this floor is not serious," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Added House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Conn.: "It's politics. We get it. It's a sham."

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had a different view, saying the vote shows the House "is listening to the American people."

"The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats have repeatedly asked for a debt-limit hike without any spending cuts and budget reforms, and the American people simply will not tolerate it," said Boehner.

The bill's defeat -- not a single Republican voted for it -- now sets the stage for meetings between President Obama and the entire House Republican Conference on Wednesday at the White House, and a separate meeting between Obama and House Democrats on Thursday. Seven lawmakers voted only "present."

The Treasury Department has said Congress must take some action in regard to lifting the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2, in order to avoid default and to keep the nation paying its bills. At least a $2 trillion increase is needed through 2012, Treasury has said.

Obama and some Democrats have been seeking a debt-limit increase not tied to spending cuts or reforms, which they argued should be determined separately as part of ongoing negotiations between Congress and the White House. Republicans counter that any debt-limit increase must be accompanied by spending cuts.

Republicans did not deny that they had employed some political choreography in what was a guaranteed defeat of the bill, but they insisted that it demonstrates support for their position that any debt-limit hike must be accompanied by deep spending cuts.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp, R-Mich., even declared on the House floor prior to the vote that the legislation "will and must fail.... Today we are making clear that Republicans will not accept an increase in our nation's debt limit without substantial spending cuts and real budgetary reforms."

That desired outcome was doubly assured by their placement of the bill on the suspension calendar, a procedure that allowed little debate, no amendments, and would have required two-thirds of the House to approve it for passage.

Democrats expressed outrage that, in their words, such an important vote was held under these circumstances.

Before the vote, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called it a "political charade," and told reporters that he was advising his members to either vote "no' or "present" -- even if they supported the bill -- so as not to "subject themselves" to the TV ads and other political attacks that Republicans would bring against them.

Image credit: Harry Hamburg/AP

Jump to comments
Presented by

Billy House

Bill House is a staff writer (Congress) for National Journal.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Politics

Just In