A Republican plan to rescue the nation from defaulting on its debt squeaked through the House Friday and immediately moved to the Senate, where Democrats tabled measure.
The House legislation narrowly passed 218 to 210, with 22 Republicans voting against the plan crafted by House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio). The proposal required 216 votes to pass. No Democrats voted in favor of its passage.
In a passionate and forceful speech just minutes before the vote, Boehner said the plan will end the debt crisis without raising taxes, without crippling the economy, and minus mathematical gimmicks, “which represents the old way of doing things.”
“To the American people, I say we tried our level best,” Boehner said. “We did everything we could to find common-sense solutions that would pass out of the House and end this crisis.”
This is the second piece of legislation in as many weeks the House Republicans have passed to solve the debt crisis. President Obama has not offered a plan. Congressional Democrats are expected to take action on their first plan this weekend.
Boehner’s legislation almost collapsed Thursday night, and the vote was delayed to give the speaker time to rein in several Republicans who caucus with the Tea Party.
The measure was amended Friday to require that a future debt-limit increase be conditional on the House and Senate passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution and sending it to the states for ratification, cinching the deal for many Republicans to switch from a no to a yes vote. The debt increase of nearly $1 trillion must also be offset by comparable spending cuts.
“I have offered ideas, I have negotiated, and not one time did the administration put any plan on the table. All they did was criticize what I put out there,” Boehner said.
“I stuck my neck out a mile to try and get an agreement with the President, and I put revenue on the table to try and come to an agreement. But a lot of people in this town can never say yes.”
“It is time for this administration and (Democrats) across the aisle to put something on the table and tell us where you are!” Boehner shouted, to the applause of his fellow Republicans.
“Where are the other ideas? At this point, the House is going to act again, and it is time for our colleagues across the aisle to tell us what they are for, tell us how to end this crisis,” Boehner said.
Earlier in the day, Obama said that the debt ceiling must be raised by Tuesday “so that our country will have the ability to pay its bills on time, as we always have.”
“Bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans benefits, and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses,” Obama said.
With less than four days before the Aug. 2 deadline, Wall Street is watching Congress closely to see whether it can reach a deal in time.
Stocks were down after the closing bell. The Dow fell 0.79%, Nasdaq 0.38%, and the S&P Index was down 0.65%.
Adding to economic concerns, the Commerce Department earlier in the day revised the first-quarter gross domestic product growth from 1.7% to 0.4%.
Boehner’s bill would cut close to $1 trillion in spending over the next decade, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposal would cut $2.2 trillion.
However, Republicans say Reid’s bill is filled with “gimmicks” that would cut funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is our last and best chance,” Reid said of his proposal.
“The only compromise that there is, is mine,” Reid said.
The Senate on Friday night voted mostly along party lines, 59 to 41, to table the Boehner legislation, and will vote on Reid’s proposal sometime this weekend or early next week.
Republicans voting with Democrats include Senators Rand Paul (Ky.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jim DeMint (S.C.), David Vitter (La.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).
The House on Saturday is expected to bring up Reid’s bill, so Republicans in turn can defeat that measure.
During the debate, House Democrats called Boehner’s plan an “extreme manifesto” full of “Tea Party games” that will cut benefits to seniors, give kickbacks to special interests, tax the middle class, and slash or kill Medicare and Social Security
“This is the worst bill that any American can ever imagine in the history of this nation,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D.-Tex.).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) called it an “engine of destruction.”
Rep. Pete Sessions (R.-Tex.) said Republicans are not willing to raise the debt limit, which stands at $14 trillion, without making tough choices.
“Republicans are willing to pay the balance, if the President is willing to cut up the credit card,” Sessions said.
Rep. Jack Kingston, (R.-Ga.) said the plan is the only way to rein in Democrat spending.
“American families have had to tighten their belts, Washington must do the same thing,” Kingston said.
Rep. Allen West (R.-Fla.), who caucuses with the Tea Party, is one of the few who sided early with Boehner.
“I’m going to stand with this Boehner plan, and once again, if the folks who one minute they’re saying that I’m their ‘Tea Party hero’ and what, three or four days later, ‘I’m a Tea Party defector,’” West said on the “Laura Ingraham Show.”
“That kind of schizophrenia, I’m not going to get involved in it,” West said. House Republicans voting against the legislation include Justin Amash (Mich.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Chip Cravaack (Minn.), Scott Desjarlais (Tenn.), Tom Graves (Ga.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Steve King (Iowa,) Tim Johnson (Ill.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Ron Paul (Tex.), Tom Price (Ga.), Connie Mack (Fla.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Tim Scott (S.C.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Tom Latham (Iowa), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Trey Gowdy (S.C.), Steve Southerland (Fla.), Joe Walsh (Ill.) and Joe Wilson (S.C.).
King said he voted against the measure “because it weakens our position and makes it harder to realize the discipline necessary to significantly reduce our deficit and ultimately pay down our national debt.”