The House on Wednesday evening approved a resolution disapproving of President Obama's request to increase the federal debt ceiling by another $1.2 trillion, sending it to a Senate that is expected to reject it.
The House approved the resolution in a 239-176 vote in which just one Republican voted against it, and six Democrats voted for it. But the vote fell far short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed for passage if Obama were to veto the resolution.
Democrats voting 'yes' were Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), John BarrowJohn BarrowDem files Ethics complaint on Benghazi panel Barrow thanks staff in farewell speech The best and the worst of the midterms MORE (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Jim MathesonJim MathesonWork begins on T infrastructure plan New president, new Congress, new opportunity First black GOP woman in Congress wins reelection MORE (Utah) and Mike McIntyre (NC).
Democrats spent the day arguing that the resolution was a waste of time. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) called it a "political stunt," and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the vote was designed to give Republicans the appearance that they oppose the debt-ceiling increase, even though the increase was all but assured in legislation that Congress approved last year.
"This is a game that will say, 'see, I voted against debt,' " Hoyer said.
Under last year's Budget Control Act, Obama has the authority to call for an increase in the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion. This increase can only be avoided if both the House and Senate pass resolutions of disapproval, although the Senate is not expected to follow suit.
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Republicans used the resolution as an opportunity to again stress the importance of cutting spending and to argue that Congress has yet to take this issue seriously. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul returned from the campaign to warn of global consequences if Congress fails to curb spending.
"I believe we're in denial here in the Congress," Paul said on the House floor. "If we had the vaguest idea of how serious this crisis is financially, not only for us but for the world, we'd cut spending, because you can't solve the problem of debt by accumulating more debt."
The Texas lawmaker deadpanned that the federal government's overspending is at least be limited to two places.
"Where do we spend too much money? In two places: overseas and domestically."
But some Republicans complained that House Republicans should never have approved the Budget Control Act in the first place, since it essentially gives authority over the debt ceiling to Obama, and leaves Congress with a weak hand.
"We have in effect given the president of the United States the ability to raise the debt ceiling without ... having any control whatsoever, and that’s just wrong," Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) said.
"We should never have passed the Budget Control Act the way we did. This body should always have the ability to stop raising the debt ceiling."
— This post was updated at 4:59 p.m.