As expected, indeed intended, a bill brought to the floor by House Republicans that would extend the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion with no strings attached was overwhelmingly rejected Tuesday evening. Democrats split close to evenly on the 318-97 vote, which party leaders decried as a political stunt.
Democrats have called for a “clean” debt limit increase along the lines of the one offered by the GOP, but with no chance of passage for Tuesday’s legislation many voted against the bill out of protest. 114 have signed on to a letter by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) calling for a similar bill, but only 97 voted for today’s legislation, with 82 Democrats opposed. Another 7 Democrats voted ‘present.’
“This was designed to fail,” Welch (D-VT) told TPM before voting for the measure. “This is exhibit A in how we come up with political maneuvers that avoid addressing the issue in a serious way. The sponsors of this legislation introduced it with a speech about how they were going to oppose it.”
In floor speeches, Democrats accused the majority of threatening the nation’s credit and risking an economic catastrophe by refusing to pay for past debt carried over from the Bush administration.
“This vote is about one and one thing only: paying your bills,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) said in a speech. “They ran up the debt and now they don’t want to pay their bills.”
“I’m certainly concerned about the last eight years, but I’m more concerned about the last two,” Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), the sponsor of the debt limit bill, said before voting against his own legislation.
Democrats’ motives in supporting or opposing Tuesdays’ bill differed broadly, as some voted against it from the left to protest Republican political tacitcs while others explicitly sided with Republicans against passing a bill without making additional cuts.
“I intend to vote against raising the debt limit today because this legislation fails to make the real and immediate spending cuts needed to get our fiscal house in order,” Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), a conservative Democrat, said in a statement before voting.
Vice President Joe Biden is leading bipartisan negotiations on passing a final bill, which is expected to include significant cuts in order to secure Republican support. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he will need Medicare cuts specifically in order to garner his support.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.