Why Boehner gave in on debt ceiling vote
February 11th, 2014
08:19 PM ET
7 months ago

Why Boehner gave in on debt ceiling vote

Washington (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner threw in the towel on Tuesday.

After multiple attempts to lead his members to force some sort of concession in return for raising the nation’s debt limit, Boehner allowed a vote on a so-called “clean” debt limit increase that passed by a 221-201 margin before the House left town until the end of the month.

The Speaker and just 27 other House Republicans joined 193 House Democrats to pass the bill. One hundred and ninety nine House GOP members opposed the measure, including some members of the Speaker’s own leadership team and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.

It was the latest in long series of Boehner being stymied by House conservatives, but this time there was a significant difference - there was little political brinksmanship.

After last fall's government shutdown that caused Republican poll numbers to plummet, Boehner and most House GOP members agreed they didn't want to set up a major confrontation on the debt bill. Instead, they decided to push for some modest concessions. But many conservatives resisted even that limited strategy, arguing they didn’t want to fight for a plan that would eventually be rejected by Senate Democrats. Others felt the House GOP should attach at least one condition to the bill. So Boehner and other House Republicans spent the last couple of weeks floating a series of targeted proposals they hoped could get enough support to pass.

But roughly 16 hours after presenting his last effort – a bill that tied the debt limit increase to a provision reversing cuts in military pensions – it was clear Boehner and other top GOP leaders didn’t have the votes so they abandoned that proposal.

Boehner told reporters early Tuesday that his narrowly crafted proposal wouldn’t get 218 votes - enough Republicans to pass without Democratic votes – and said flatly, "When you don't have 218 votes, you have nothing."

Referencing previous times when his own members prevented him from moving legislation, Boehner added, "We've seen that before, we see it again."

The Speaker made it clear publicly and privately in the last couple of months that he wasn’t going to allow a default, but he also told his members if they wanted to demand any condition for raising the debt ceiling they needed to unite behind it. But as has been the case on issue after issue, he couldn’t get his members on the same page on a strategy.

Even though Boehner didn’t get support from the vast majority of House conservatives he did manage to demonstrate to some of his members that the debt ceiling isn’t an issue the party should turn into a major war right before the deadline. Many conservatives, who just a couple of years ago publicly questioned whether it was even necessary to raise the debt ceiling, now acknowledge Congress did need to grant Treasury the borrowing authority and move on to debate other issues.

Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming told CNN that Boehner and other leaders were "not even close" to getting sufficient support to move forward with their plan on Tuesday morning. But he said the decision to press the Democrats to pass the bill allows his party to "move on" and return to their focus on Obamacare.

Boehner argued "it’s the President's debt" and tried to place the burden on House Democrats to avoid a default.

"He's the one driving up the debt and the question they're [House Republicans] asking is why should I deal with his debt limit? And so the fact is we'll let the Democrats put the votes up. We'll put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed," Boehner told reporters after a closed door meeting with House Republicans.

Hours before the vote House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday it was "pathetic" that the Speaker was only committing to getting the low number of GOP votes to pass the measure.

Until recent years, votes to raise the nation's borrowing authority - which covers the debt accumulated by previous congressional spending measures - did not come this close to the deadline or involve heavy lifting. But since President Barack Obama was elected and Republicans took control of the House in 2010, a solid block of conservatives has vowed to oppose any measure to raise the debt ceiling unless it also cuts spending.

The Speaker instituted "the Boehner Rule" that stated any bill to raise the debt limit had to be linked to package of cuts and reforms greater than the increase.

While Boehner attempted to place the responsibility for raising the debt limit on the President, the reality is that pushback from many House conservatives - which has regularly been an issue for Boehner – again hampered his efforts.

Despite the embarrassing setback of having yet another proposal of his pulled at the last minute, Boehner didn't seem fazed by the development. He walked out of the House GOP leadership's press conference Tuesday morning singing an upbeat verse from the song "Zippidity Do Da."

CNN’s Paul Courson contributed to this report.


Filed under: House Republicans • John Boehner • national debt
soundoff (291 Responses)
  1. milenkovic milan

    USA can rise borrowing limit until “DEBT is GROWING at a SLOWER rate then US economy”. I believe that USA economy will be in better shape in 2016…Solutions: 1. Increase taxes on 10% rich in USA ( if this country allowed you to make money here, it is fair to return part of this money BACK to USA, true taxes); 2. Fix Tax code deductions, exemptions and loopholes…3. Corporate taxes should be 25%, but we must motivated US Companies to return $1,5 -$ 2 trillion BACK to USA and invest here… 4. I agree with Mr. Eriskine Bowels to rise Social Security taxable earnings CAP on $190.000 ( in 2014 CAP is $ 117.000); 5. If USA want to rise taxes on Americans, USA Gov. must cut TOTAL SPENDING for National Security –“ the bills comes in at well OVER $1 TRILLION” in FY 2011… ( “State vs. Defense” by Stephen Glain); 6. Cyber attacks (“ hacking broader cost to the USA is $ 300 billion a year)??? 7. Health care Reform was HISTORIC moment …The CBO estimates that Obama care will shrink the deficit by $ 109 billion from 2013 to 2022 and by 2016, 25 million people will have insurance who would NOT have it otherwise… Money what we can save on this way, we can REINVEST to have a strong middle class, more investments in USA clean energy… better education/ infrastructures / transportation…, the best innovation in the world , investment in R&D,… to eliminate $17 trillion of US national debt !

    February 12, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  2. rs

    erika young

    The Tea Party is the only party trying not to raise the debt fools. You think over spending 1 trillion a year is the answer? As usual, you've got it all up-side down. Think for yourselves.
    _______________________________
    The solution to not passing balanced budgets is simple- raise taxes. The top tax rate all through the 1950s and well through the '60s was between 87 and 92%. Today it is about 36%, and the super rich (like Mr. Romney pay about 13%). We will never pay down our nation's debt of two un-funded wars, and tax cuts for billionaires by squeezing nickels ana dimes from the poor and elderly. We'll certainly never have a space program or even decent roads. Besides, raising the minimum wage, and taxes on the rich always stimulates the economy.

    The TEA Party meanwhile, is a sorry stooge for the super-rich, and they are too dumb to know it.

    February 12, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    "You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due". To Paul O'Neill, then Treasury Secretary (The Price of Loyalty)
    Dick Cheney

    February 12, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. allenwoll

    .
    The continuing destruction of our Nation, our democracy, is safe in the hands of the Right ! !
    .
    Could someone please explain to me how and why so many of our ordinary citizens are comfortable supporting and living in a nation ever more becoming an outright Oligarchy ? ? . Is it raving economic masochism or just plain dumb ? ?
    .

    February 12, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. Dave

    John Boehner knows the debt ceiling argument is a loser for Republicans, and he doesn't want anything to distract attention away from Obamacare concern trolling – otherwise known as the only political strategy his party can think of other than obstruction.

    February 12, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  6. NorCalMojo

    Established republicans are protecting their pork. No other explanation needed.

    Any budget clean up would hit their fiefdoms, too.

    February 12, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. sby1977

    Will liberals ever realize the consequences of our Nations debt? They and the limousine liberal leaders our bankrupting our country. And ANY conservative (Tea Party rep) who speaks out is endlessly smeared! Sad...

    February 12, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  8. rs

    Steve

    Mr. Boehner, please have the courage to raise the debt ceiling to $50 trillion. Then watch the liberals complain. Hey libbie's, $50 trillion is about 30% of the real debt we have accumulated if you forced the government to use the same accounting methods that are forced on Fortune 500 companies most of you detest.
    _________________________
    Why won't the Republican-lead House pass a balanced budget? Why did the deficit triple under Reagan, and double under Bush II? Remember- your guys said "deficits don't matter". We're paying for that now. Thankfully under President Obama (like under Clinton), the deficit is shrinking- but until we stop larding the rich with tax cuts, the debt will remain.

    February 12, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. AntiChrist

    He can cry. I think that warrants an approval from the rest of us right? Lets get him to cry and we can save his tears, clone him later when the country is doing good and watch it then fall apart when he becomes speaker or tweeter. Maybe a sub woofer. Thats it. A SUB Woof woof woofer.

    February 12, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Jebb and Parker great posts.
    Boehner hasn't given in to anything.
    Boehner is just thnking ahead to November's big election where they hope to recapture the Senate and keep the House.
    You can't accomplish those things if all voters are remembering is what a collective bunch of dickweeds you and your cohorts have been.
    Shutting down the government to the tune of 24 billion dollars, is something they want the voters to quickly forget.
    Holidng our country, our economy, and our credit rating hostage is something they want the voters to quickly forget.
    Not letting jobs bill come up for a vote is something they want the voters to quickly forget.
    Tax breaks for the rich and tax screws for the middle class is something they want the voters to quickly forget.
    Being the Party of Hell No to everything and anything is something they want the voters to quickly forget.
    I say we forget you Boehner and your band of cray-cray Teatards by removig you from office in November.
    Then we can both forget.....and heal.

    February 12, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. kay

    Economically, now is not the time to try to balance the budget. When unemployment is high (the figures are not counting all the unemployed) and the economy is in a recession, spending government money is the best way to boost economic growth. For those who diagree, take a look at the recession of 1937-1938.

    February 12, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  12. Chris

    To everyone that is saying it is riduculous that Congress "hold the country hostage" due to the increase of debt limit versus spending, I just want to mention this:
    1) The purpose of Congress is to set and approve budgets that the country must follow
    2) The defense budget and SS programs and a couple others are NOT part of "the budget", they are external to the central budget approval process, but they do affect the increase in debt
    3) I am not sure where funding of the ACA is in the budgetary process, but I would venture to say that it is outside of that, just like defense, SS, etc.
    4) Unless expenditures on ALL facets of the federal budget come to realistic terms (and under total scrutiny), the debt ceiling will increase ad-infinitum to the point where we are paying as much interest on the National Debt as is received through taxes.

    February 12, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  13. rs

    sby1977

    Will liberals ever realize the consequences of our Nations debt? They and the limousine liberal leaders our bankrupting our country. And ANY conservative (Tea Party rep) who speaks out is endlessly smeared! Sad...
    ________________________
    Well, that's because the Right "built that" debt, remember?

    February 12, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  14. blakenaustin

    Boehner gave in on the debt ceiling because:
    1) He is a RINO with more in common with the Democrats than his own party.
    2) He is an incompetent House speaker who rolls over and plays dead when he gets push back from the Democrats.
    3) He pays far too much attention to the warped perspective of the far left media.
    4) He has lived in the Washington beltway too long and has lost touch with mainstream America.

    It is well past time to replace Boehner with a consistently conservative speaker of the House.

    February 12, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  15. rs

    blakenaustin

    Boehner gave in on the debt ceiling because:
    1) He is a RINO with more in common with the Democrats than his own party.
    2) He is an incompetent House speaker who rolls over and plays dead when he gets push back from the Democrats.
    3) He pays far too much attention to the warped perspective of the far left media.
    4) He has lived in the Washington beltway too long and has lost touch with mainstream America.

    It is well past time to replace Boehner with a consistently conservative speaker of the House.
    ________________________
    Amazing! Inaccurate on every single statement.

    February 12, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. Trish

    yeah sure he is singing, he is not affected by any of this since his retirement and healthcare are safe and secure...

    February 12, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. MIke

    To those that said he did the right thing, you do realize we just about now owe more debt than our entire GDP? How about they cut their salaries and the welfare benefits and ACA so that we can get spending under control. You do realize that when the debt is more than the GDP you are pretty much bankrupt? Just ask Greece.

    February 12, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  18. Reuben R. Lampe

    I believe that the American people are being deceived about what is really going on. Jobs and resources are taken out of country not allowing any kind of a tax base to pay the bills. And the funny thing about it is that the guilty parties are those that are complaining the most. President Obama said at his state of the union address that we have such an abundance of food that we are exporting more and more food. What is happening is that they are exporting more and more food which drives domestic prices higher and higher. I don't know if anybody noticed but I went to the store the other day 20% fat hamburger sold for $4.80 a pound. And what is happening is that by lowering supply here they justify gouging the American consumer. Another example is gasoline prices. The oil companies are making record profits and yet they raised prices between grades from $.10 to $.20. And we are still giving them tax payer money. Somebody better wake up and start being loyal the majority of people in this country as you expect the people to be loyal to the country.

    February 12, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  19. Cory Harris

    Political stupidity at it's best! Stand with Obama on issues you can't raise money for your campaign, If your against him on issues you raise tons of cash and you look like a MORON!! I'm wondering why the very things Republican complain about while Obama was in office their was no issue before 2008.. Noooooo race has nothing to do with it.. (WINK) Romneycare/Bob Dole etc... Smart Republicans will know exactly what I'm saying. Now those who just hate Obama not because his race (WINK) could care less. F....ing morons!!

    February 12, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  20. Cory Harris

    *is in office*

    February 12, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. Cliff

    They should just close the government down, they are all worthless anyway. How in the world can you justify a debt of 17 Trillion dollars and not want to do anything to lower it. Our government has become so out of control it is going to destroy this country. It doesn't matter what your political beliefs are or which party you are a part of, they are destroying our future, this uncontrollable spending habit they have all become accustomed to must stop.

    February 12, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. jay field

    Every thing is fake now,just like the news media.

    February 12, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. libs arethick

    Go ahead Liberals let Obama raise the debt ceiling and completely bankrupt America.
    Boehner RIGHTLY disagreed with raising it [AGAIN!] but the uneducated Lemmings in the US evidently WANT a mega economic crash. Foolish sheep that they are.

    Now watch and let Obama have his way but don't you DARE blame the Republicans when the B.S. hits the fan.

    February 12, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. bob

    It is not the fault of the Democrats that the country has to borrow money to stay afloat, it is the fault of the Republicans. During the Reagan regime taxes for the rich were cut in order to fatten their wallets. This created a budget shortfall. In order to make up for it Reagan had to borrow money, which meant raising the debt limit. He them drove the national debt up to a record high. The Republicans are always carping about tax-and-spend Democrats, but the borrow-and-spend policy of the Republican Party is far worse for two reasons. First, as anyone with an ounce of brains knows, you have to pay interest on borrowed money, which means that whatever it was borrowed for winds up costing more than it would have if you could actually afford it. Second, it is taxation without representation, since many people who will be stuck paying off our government's loans were too young to vote at the time they were plunged into debt. Therefore they were not represented in Congress. Look at it this way. It's exactly the same as taking out a loan that you will never be able to pay off yourself but, that will be passed on to your children. This is why many countries and some of our states require their governments to maintain a balanced budget. Reagan went on and on about unfair taxes, then turned around and taxed the next generation without their having any say in the matter whatsoever. Taxation without representation is why we we declared our independence from England in 1776. We should declare it again by forcing Congress to enact a law prohibiting them from taxing future generations. The Republicans will balk, of course, because it will mean having to tax the rich at the same rates we did before Reagan emancipated them, but if we all stop voting for them they will fade into the pages of history, just as the Loyalists did in 1776.

    February 12, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  25. Brian

    Have to give him credit...he actually learned something from last time.

    February 12, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
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