Less than 24 hours after drafting a debt ceiling bill aimed at extracting concessions from Democrats, the House instead passed a suspension of the debt ceiling until March 2015. The bill passed 221 to 201, and will almost certainly be passed by the Democratic Senate and signed by President Obama.
Despite being initiated by Republican leadership, only 28 members of the GOP voted for the measure. That's because the party had largely backed itself into a corner, energizing the conservative base with opposition to any such increase but recognizing that economic and political realities necessitated they take action. According to The Washington Post, Speaker John Boehner chided his caucus for continuing to give him trouble on the issue. "I'm getting this monkey off your back and you’re not going to even clap?" Boehner said to some of his more conservative members. They responded with what one Republican called a "polite golf clap."
Caught up w/ Nunes: "It wasn't exactly a profile in courage. You had members saying they hoped it passed, but unwilling to vote for it."— Robert Costa (@costareports) February 11, 2014
Removing the debt ceiling for the next 13 months allows the Treasury Department to borrow money to pay bills without any restriction. From a political standpoint, though, it removes the impulse toward brinksmanship that began in 2011 and culminated in the collapse of the Republican shutdown strategy last October. Had the debt ceiling not precipitated Republican surrender at that point, it's unlikely that the House Republican caucus would have acquiesced to Boehner bringing forward a debt ceiling proposal without any amendments. Now, even staunch conservatives didn't have the heart for a fight. And now there's no chance of one on the debt ceiling for at least a year.
So this is the way House obstructionism ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.