House votes to head off Senate debt bill in retaliatory strike

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In a vote of theater politics, House Republicans introduced and then killed the Democrats’ debt limit bill Saturday afternoon, trying to force both sides back to the negotiating table by showing there is no viable proposal left right now.

The House GOP was acting less than 24 hours after the Senate, led by Democrats, voted to kill the Republicans’ plan. But the retaliatory strike left both sides no closer to a final agreement that could head off what the administration says is a debt crisis looming on Tuesday.

“The reason the House is considering this today is to put up another guardrail,” said Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, who said the vote helped establish the limits of what can pass. “We’ve got to have this vote today to show what the House will not do.”

The vote was 246-173 to kill the bill, with 11 Democrats joining Republicans in rejecting their party leaders’ plan. Those Democratic lawmakers seemed to come from both the conservative and liberal sides of that party.

Under the rules of debate the measure would have required two-thirds support to win anyway, which Democrats said proved the vote was stacked against them. Democrats called the process “a disgrace,” and said it was untoward to introduce and vote on a Senate bill before the Senate itself acts.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Speaker John A. Boehner has been overwhelmed in his efforts by lawmakers elected with support of the tea party movement.

“He chose to go to the dark side,” Mrs. Pelosi said, prompting chants of “dark side” from some of her fellow Democrats.

Republican Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier said he considered asking for disciplinary action for her comments, but decided not to.

Democratic leaders in the Senate are delaying a vote on their bill until 1 a.m. Sunday morning to allow the entire procedural timetable to run, though the measure’s defeat seems assured in that chamber as well. On Saturday, 43 Senate Republicans — enough to ensure a filibuster — signed a letter saying they will oppose the bill, once they are given a chance to vote.

Mr. Reid has held up a vote for days. He wanted to ensure he had killed the House bill first, which meant his bill was the only one left — and he hoped that would build momentum for its passage.

On Saturday, with the House bill behind him, he made that pitch to fellow senators.

“I urge my Republican friends to join me to move forward with the only compromise plan that’s left — in fact, the only option left at all to save this country from default,” he said.

But Mr. McConnell said Mr. Reid’s bill was unacceptable to both chambers, and accused Democrats of delaying a vote to try to force a crisis.

“The Democrats’ entire strategy this particular week since last Sunday has been to run out the clock so the nation focuses more on the Aug. 2 deadline than on their own failure to do something about the underlying problem,” Mr. McConnell said.

Mr. Reid’s plan would raise debt authority by $2.4 trillion while reducing future spending by $2.2 trillion, according to Congressional Budget Office calculations. In a concession to Republicans, that debt authority would be divided into three tranches, with the second and third increases being contingent on future requests President Mr. Obama.

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