The U.S. House of Representatives has delayed a vote on a Republican plan to cut government spending and raise the federal borrowing limit in two stages. With only five days until a potential default on the national debt, drama reached a peak in the House late Thursday, as the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, postponed the vote amid reports he did not have enough support among his own Republican caucus to pass it.
The vote on the bill proposed by House Speaker John Boehner was scheduled for early evening, Washington, D.C. time. But after two hours of debate on the “Budget Control” bill, instead of voting on it, the Republican-controlled House suddenly turned its attention to bills on re-naming post offices.
The House then recessed for several hours, amid reports that Speaker Boehner did not have the 217 votes he needed to pass the measure among his 240 Republican caucus members.
Individual Republican lawmakers were seen entering and leaving the Speaker's office, amid speculation Boehner was holding one-on-one-consultations with anti-government Tea Party supporters, who have opposed the bill because they feel it does not cut spending enough.
Emerging from the Speaker's office, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas told reporters he was still a “bloodied, but beaten NO” vote.
Earlier Thursday, Speaker Boehner appeared confident at a news conference.
“Today the House will take action, again, on a solution to end the debt limit crisis. We will take action again, just like we did on our budget, on solutions to the problems that are facing our nation,” he said.
A number of Republican lawmakers took the floor to call for passage of the Boehner "Budget Control" bill, which would cut government spending by a larger amount than it would increase the debt limit. Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt is not only endangering the future for America's children, but that all of that borrowed money and the interest paid on it are hurting the U.S. economy right now.
"Half of that money is coming from other other countries like China. Why on earth do we want to give the president a blank check, to keep doing that, giving our sovereignty and our self-determination to other countries to loan us money to fund our government," said Ryan. "Those days have got to end."
Several Republican lawmakers said the bill was not perfect, but that it was a compromise and the best chance to avoid default. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and other Democrats strongly disagreed, saying the bill was not bipartisan and not a compromise.
"There is no common ground here, nor was it sought. We find ourselves at an unprecedented place today. Americans stand on the brink of default," said Hoyer. "It stands there my friends, because the leadership of the House has failed to act in a timely and responsible way."
Congressman James Clyburn summed up the view of most Democratic lawmakers.
"While the clock is ticking, the Republican majority is dickering and the American people are hurting. Our financial markets are on pace for their worst week in nearly a year. State governments are bracing for downgrades in their borrowing capacities," he said.
Analysts see the postponement of the House vote as a political embarrassment for Boehner, and an indication that the Tea Party members of his caucus may oppose any raising of the debt ceiling.
On the Senate side, 53 senators have signed a letter saying they will not vote for the Boehner plan, so analysts says the House measure has virtually no chance of passing the Senate, even if the Speaker manages to get it passed in the House on Friday. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has put forward his own plan to raise the debt limit and cut spending, and it has been endorsed by President Barack Obama.
Without a deal on some kind of plan to raise the $14.3 trillion legal limit on borrowing by the deadline, the Treasury Department says it will not have enough money to pay all of its bills starting August 2. That could bring a default that would likely prompt rating agencies to cut the U.S. credit rating, bringing higher interest rates and hurting economic growth.