CAPITOL HILL — In an abrupt change of course, the Republican-led House of Representatives has voted to raise the nation's debt limit, with no policy conditions attached. The vote was 221 in favor and 201 against, with all but two Democrats voting for it, while only 28 Republicans came out in support and 199 voted against.
Democratic House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi delivered the votes necessary to pass the bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and avoid default on government debt.
President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress had been calling for months for a so-called “clean” vote to raise the debt ceiling - one with no conditions attached. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi thanked Republican House Speaker John Boehner for not letting the full faith and credit of the United States come into question.
“I thank the speaker for giving us this opportunity. This is really important to bring legislation to the floor that is consistent with the intent of the Constitution and with the best interests of the American people,” said Pelosi.
Earlier in the day, Speaker Boehner surprised many by calling for a quick, clean vote, after failing to persuade a majority in his own party to back his plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
The Republican speaker had wanted to link the action to repeal of an unpopular military pension cut. But conservative Republicans objected, saying it would not do anything to cut government spending and reduce the deficit.
Boehner said House Republicans are angry at President Obama for refusing to even negotiate spending cuts in trade for raising the debt ceiling.
"He [President Obama] is the one driving up the debt. Then the question they [Republicans] are asking is, ‘Well, why should I deal with his debt limit?’ And so the fact is, we will let the Democrats put the votes up. We will put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed,“ said Boehner.
The move is a shift for Boehner, who in 2011 vowed not to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats offered an equal amount of spending cuts, leading to a dramatic last-minute showdown to raise the debt ceiling just hours ahead of a potential default, with the president signing a deficit reduction agreement.
But for the past two years, President Obama has refused to negotiate on the debt ceiling, and now a White House official has said he hopes the tactic for threatening default for budget debates is over and will never come again.
The Democratic-led Senate also is expected to pass a debt ceiling bill with no conditions attached in the coming days. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had said that he is now using extraordinary measures to pay U.S. bills and that Congress needs to act by February 27.