The Republican-led House voted 234-190 on Tuesday night to approve the GOP’s “cut, cap, and balance” bill to address the nation’s debt-ceiling crisis, which the Senate is unlikely to pass and President Obama has said he’d veto.
In total, nine Republicans voted against the measure and five Democrats voted for it.
Far from a realistic debt-ceiling compromise to avert what the Obama administration has said is a potential catastrophic default by the country, the vote nonetheless provided members from both parties a forum for more political posturing and venting. The vote also comes as Congressional leaders expect a meeting on the debt ceiling at the White House on Wednesday.
Some Republicans also seemed convinced that it might inoculate their party from depictions as obstructing a debt deal, with the August 2 deadline looming by when Treasury says the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling must be raised.
But such political cover is thin. Republican hard-liners and freshman tea party loyalists may now be able to say they voted for a $2.4 trillion hike in the nation’s borrowing capacity—but really only in a way that would have forced spending cuts and caps that they knew were not politically acceptable to the other side. The bill calls for those spending cuts over 10 years and would also be linked to passage of a balanced budget amendment in a separate vote.
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Much of the steam was taken out of what might have been a more exciting floor debate, however, when both Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said beforehand that once the vote was cast, both chambers of Congress and both parties would then have to get on with trying to resolve the standoff.
“I think everyone's estimation is, is that that is not an approach that could pass both chambers, it's not an approach that I would sign and it's not balanced. But I understand the need for them to test that proposition,” Obama said earlier in the day.
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Boehner said in the morning that after the vote, it would be time to consider alternatives.
Still, there were some testy exchanges.
At one point on the House floor, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., exclaimed: “Let’s get serious and stop playing politics. It’s not about that.”
“What's really going on in all of the debt discussions, in all of the negotiations, is the fact that the minority and its party and the president continue to insist that we raise taxes on the small-business people that we need so desperately to begin creating jobs and hiring people again,” Cantor added.
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But House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said it’s “hard to have a conversation” when Republicans refuse to talk about closing corporate tax loopholes. “This is a Washington lobbyist’s dream,” he said.
Katy O'Donnell contributed.