Unable to Rally Support, House GOP Postpones Key Debt Vote

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

House Republican leaders came up short Thursday night in their effort to find enough votes to pass Speaker John Boehner’s bill to raise the debt ceiling, delaying consideration of the doomed bill until Friday and laying bare the deep divisions within the balkanized GOP conference.

After hours of debate on Boehner’s bill, known as the Budget Control Act, the Republican leadership team yanked the bill from the floor late Thursday afternoon to buy time to sharpen their pitch to obstinate members. Hve hours later, after plying their members with boxes of pizza during a series of closed-door arm-twisting sessions, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy announced at around 10:30 p.m. that the vote wouldn’t take place until Friday at the earliest.

Republicans, who have 240 members in the House, need 217 to pass the legislation. Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer repeatedly said the GOP would earn no Democratic votes. Delaying the bill twice was a clear indication that Boehner and his top lieutenants couldn’t get their members to unite behind the proposal.

The lack of a vote capped a night of high drama in the Capitol, as Republican leaders scrambled furiously behind closed doors to marshal support for a bill they cast as the best option left for Republicans. Rank and file members — many of whom fell into the ‘no’ and ‘undecided’ columns — streamed in and out of leadership offices, often emerging weary and tight-lipped. Louie Gohmert, one of some 25 Republicans who have said they will reject the plan or are leading in that direction, said he was a “bloody, beaten-down no.” And while leaders were able to flip a few lawmakers, there were enough stubborn holdouts to offer a startling rebuke to party leadership.

The House Rules Committee met just before midnight Thursday to tweak the measure in advance of a planned party meeting on Friday morning. The all-out lobbying effort will kick back into gear then, as Boehner, unable to quash Thursday’s rebellion on his right flank, attempts to reassert control over his troops. With the prospect of a potential default looming just four days away and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eager to kill the measure and replace it with one of his own, the Speaker and his deputies cannot afford another clock-eating debacle.