House Democrat vote expected to split on 'clean' debt-ceiling hike

House Democrats will be split by Tuesday's vote to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) predicted Tuesday. 

Welch, who has called for a "clean" vote on raising the nation's $14.3 trillion deficit, accused Republicans of playing politics with the measure, which the GOP plans to vote down. 

"This is a bogus political maneuver," he said in an interview with The Hill. "It's intended for political consumption."


Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House’s No. 2 Democrat, also slammed the vote Tuesday. He said it is “unfortunate” and runs to Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) declaration that lawmakers needed to have an “adult conversation” on the debt limit. 

"This is not going to be an adult moment," Hoyer said.


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Welch, who in April organized more than 100 Democrats to call for a clean debt-ceiling vote, told The Hill that he would vote for the increase, since he said this is the "best way" to protest how Republicans have handled the issue so far. But because Democrats don't see today's vote as a serious opportunity for handling the debt crisis, Welch predicted that Democrats would make up their own mind on how to vote.

House Republicans want to hold a vote in order to demonstrate that the House would oppose a straight increase in the debt ceiling without a commitment to reduce spending. 

The hike in the debt ceiling is not being combined with any spending cuts — a "clean" bill. But many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will be reluctant to vote in favor the measure without spending cuts given the unpopularity with voters of hiking the debt ceiling.

Welch said Republicans are engaging in "double speak" by sponsoring a bill that they want to kill. He also criticized them for apparently trying to reassure Wall Street that they are serious about solving the debt crisis.

"We're taking Washington double-speak to Washington triple-speak with this maneuver," he said. "This is putting Congress on a fast path to getting us from low double-digit approval ratings to low single-digit approval ratings."

Vice President Biden is holding negotiations with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House on a deal that could allow the debt ceiling to be raised. Sticking points to the talks include GOP opposition to including any tax increases, and Democratic opposition to including significant changes to Medicare or Social Security. 

The Treasury Department has said it has enough flexibility to prevent a U.S. default on its debt until Aug. 2, when it says it will need additional borrowing authority. But some Republicans have charged that this deadline is artificial and that Treasury could pay U.S. creditors and still have enough flexibility to pay other bills. 

Republican House members are scheduled to meet with Obama at the White House on Wednesday. One GOP staffer described the planned meeting as a Q&A session that will touch on a "wide range of issues."

Welch harshly criticized House Republican plans to put the debt-ceiling vote on the suspension calendar, which severely limits time for debate and also ensures the bill's failure, as suspension bills require two-thirds of all voting members to approve the bill. The bill was expected to fail even by a simple-majority vote.

"This is a transparently political maneuver," Welch said. "The Republicans are bringing up the bill to kill it."

The likelihood of a talk about how to approach the debt ceiling seems likely, as the House on Tuesday plans to reject a $2.4 trillion increase, which is what Obama would need to implement his budget plan.

House Democrats are expected to meet with Obama later in the week.

Bernie Becker contributed. Updated at 1:27 p.m.

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