Lacking enough support to pass their debt-limit bill, House Republican leaders postponed a scheduled vote Thursday and were working feverishly behind closed doors to try to round up votes, though the delay further complicates matters as all sides struggle to beat an Aug. 2 deadline.
The leaders had brought the bill to the floor and the debate had been raging for more than two hours Thursday afternoon when Republicans abruptly halted the proceedings midstream and pivoted to other, non-controversial business.
Once that was exhausted, the chamber went into an hours-long recess as Speaker John A. Boehner and his leadership team tried to persuade reluctant lawmakers to back their bill.
“No votes tonight,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, told reporters at nearly 10:30 p.m.
The White House, which has been sparring with Republicans for months about the debt situation, was gleefully taking shots throughout the night
After some news outlets reported that Republicans were considering rewriting the bill to eliminate come college aid spending, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer took to his online Twitter account to blast the GOP.
“So, the way to win more GOP votes is to cut aid for college students? That won’t play well with the American people,” he tweeted.
Republicans had been rushing to pass the bill Thursday evening and send it to the Senate, hoping momentum would entice Senate Democrats to accept it. But those Democrats said they were prepared to table the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, was holding the chamber in session Thursday night to prepare for a vote.
Both sides are struggling to find agreement on a way to raise the government’s borrowing limit and cut spending ahead of Tuesday, which is when the Treasury Department says the debt ceiling will be reached.
House Republicans’ plan, written by Mr. Boehner, would cut future spending by $915 billion while instantly raising the government’s borrowing authority by $900 billion.
Senate Democrats are rewriting their plan after the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that it raised the debt by $2.7 trillion, but only cut spending by $2.2 trillion. All sides have agreed to cut spending by more than they raise borrowing authority.
The Nevada Democrat is hoping that by blocking those other options, his plan will gain momentum. But Republican senators have objected to his plan, and some Democrats also have said they can’t support it.
In the House, Republican leaders were trying Thursday to win over party members who say they’ve already passed the cut, cap and balance bill, which included deeper spending cuts and also required Congress to send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
Those rank-and-file Republican lawmakers questioned why the House was already giving up on cut, cap and balance while the Senate hasn’t been able to pass anything at all.