(CNN) - House Democratic leaders barely headed off a revolt Wednesday from 39 moderate Democrats who sided with Republicans and voted against a procedural resolution that would let Congress adjourn before the midterm elections.
GOP leaders framed the measure as a de facto vote on agreeing to leave Washington without voting on whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year. The Democrats who split with their party face tough re-election battles and didn't want to give the GOP a political talking point by going on record that they were ready to leave without taking up the issue.
The measure ultimately passed 210-209, allowing Congress to officially leave town after it finishes business likely late Wednesday night. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who rarely votes on these routine resolutions, had to step in and break the tie.
House GOP Leader John Boehner took to the House floor before the vote, signaling Republicans were going to use the adjournment vote against Democrats. "The idea that we are going to leave here and not extend all of the current tax rates to end the uncertainty is an irresponsibility on the part of this Congress. And how any member can vote to adjourn and punt this into a lame duck session I think is putting your election above the needs of your constituents."
Many of the Democrats who broke ranks were already on record in a letter earlier this month to Pelosi urging a short-term extension of all current tax rates, even those for the wealthy.
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders continued to hold open the option until early Wednesday that the House could vote on a bill to extend tax cuts for families making $250,000 or less, and individuals making $200,000 or less. But because of the deep divisions within the Democratic caucus, leaders conceded that there would be no vote before the election.