WASHINGTON – The House passed a no-frills debt ceiling increase on Tuesday despite heated opposition from the Republican Party’s conservative wing, leading some elements to demand the ouster of House Speaker John Boehner.
The final vote on what has been characterized as a “clean” debt ceiling measure – containing no amendments or attachments – was 221-215, with 28 Republicans joining all but two Democrats in favor of a bill that will permit the federal government to borrow the funds necessary to continue uninterrupted operations through March 15, 2015.
Among those opposing the measure was Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee and the unsuccessful Republican nominee for vice president in 2012. Ryan, with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, pieced together a two-year spending package, adopted in both chambers and signed by President Obama, that a raised debt ceiling will help fund. The entire GOP leadership team, led by Boehner and House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, supported the measure.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, already has said his caucus will avoid shutting down the federal government this go-round, a happenstance that occurred last November, much to the political detriment of the GOP. A vote is expected in the upper chamber sometime later this week and the bill is expected to pass.
The vote was a victory for the Obama White House, which has been warning that the failure to raise the debt limit could lead to a federal government unable to pay its bills, resulting in dire consequences.
Now the question hanging over the Capitol is what the vote means for Boehner (R-Ohio), who has alienated influential conservative groups in the past and now has pushed legislation opposed by his own caucus by more than 7-to-1. One of those influential groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund, dispatched an email to supporters calling for his ouster.
“Republicans are giving up because they know that winning is impossible when their leaders are determined to lose,” the message read. “These leaders have telegraphed weakness to the Democrats and sabotaged conservative efforts so many times that Republicans now have no leverage. There’s only one solution. John Boehner must be replaced as Speaker of the House.”
Another group, the Tea Party Patriots, was equally dismissive.
“While Democrats are the driving force behind running up our national debt, growing the size of the federal government and wasting our money, all too often Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner, are happy to go along for the ride,” the group said on its website.
The group further noted the American people “are desperate for principled leadership in Washington, not ‘go-along-to-get-along’ capitulation. Sign the petition now! Then contact your Representative and tell them you are ready for real leadership. Tell them to fire the Speaker!”
FreedomWorks and RedState.com also are calling for Boehner’s removal from leadership. The speaker was not available for comment after the vote. Beforehand, Boehner asserted that passage of the bill represented a “lost opportunity.”
“We could have sat down and worked together in a bipartisan manner to find cuts and reform that are greater than increasing the debt limit,” he said. “I am disappointed, to say the least.”
Cantor remained on the offensive, maintaining that Republicans “are the only ones who acknowledge our debt crisis and have repeatedly attempted to help reverse the dangerous spending trend in Washington.”
“While controlling only one chamber of one branch, we’ve successfully cut spending and passed bills to encourage economic growth,” Cantor said. “It is clear that President Obama and congressional Democrats prefer to spend more, incur more debt and embrace a new normal of slow economic growth and joblessness, and that is unacceptable. House Republicans need more responsible and willing partners in Washington so we can finally and boldly address our long term debt crisis.”