What was originally described as a brief snafu has turned into a stunning rebuke of House Republican leaders, who were unable Thursday to round up the minimum number of votes to pass Speaker John Boehner’s debt limit bill.
The vote, originally scheduled for 6 p.m., was delayed at the last minute, when Boehner and his leadership team finally faced the harsh reality: despite a swing of momentum in their direction over the previous 24 hours, they didn’t have the votes. And with no Democrats there to help them, they needed 217 Republicans to be on board. They were not.
Boehner and his leadership team met for hours, in various leadership offices, with reluctant members, and persuasive supporters, hoping to cobble together a majority. Meanwhile, leadership aides insisted for as long as possible that a vote was still planned late Thursday.
At about 10:30 p.m., House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) emerged from Boehner’s second floor Capitol office and announced to assembled reporters, “No vote tonight.”
The powerful House Rules Committee announced an emergency meeting shortly after McCarthy’s announcement — to loosen the procedural restrictions on Boehner’s bill, setting up potential amendments to it, and a vote as early as Friday.
The Senate, where Democrats had planned to vote down Boehner’s plan tonight, has turned out the lights.
Politically the developments were devastating for Boehner, and strengthen Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hand going into the final days before the country’s borrowing authority expires. But time is too short at this point for Democrats to celebrate the GOP’s problems. Whether they wait for the GOP to act or not, Reid must pass something by Tuesday at the latest if the country is to meet all of its obligations next week.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.