The House on Thursday narrowly passed a rule to set up debate on the $1.1 trillion "cromnibus" government funding bill, in a dramatic vote that for several minutes was on the brink of failing.
By a razor-thin margin of 214-212, the House advances to debating the underlying appropriations bill to avoid a government shutdown at midnight. [Read the full vote breakdown here.]
That left Republicans to approve the rule on their own. For several minutes, there were more "nay" votes than "yes" votes by 210-213. Then, for a moment, it was tied at 213-213.
It was at that point Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerEXCLUSIVE: Pro-Hillary group takes 0K in banned donations Ryan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility MORE (R-Ohio) intervened. Fellow lawmakers and reporters in the gallery could see Boehner personally lobbying conservatives who voted against the rule to switch their votes.
One of the lawmakers who switched was Rep. Kerry BentivolioKerry BentivolioIndiana Republican: Leaders duped me Reindeer farmer saves 'cromnibus' with yes vote High drama as .1T spending package advances by one vote MORE (R-Mich.), who lost his primary earlier this year and won't be returning in the new Congress.
Votes on rules are typically a formality, but for several minutes, lawmakers cast their gaze at the gallery listing of votes as many wondered whether the rule would fail.
That outcome could have derailed the entire bill and raised the risk of a government shutdown.
Republicans could only lose up to 17 of their own members to pass the rule without the help of Democrats.
The 16 Republican defectors were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Dave Brat (Va.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Steve King (Iowa), Raúl Labrador (Idaho), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Bill Posey (Fla.), Matt Salmon (Ariz.) and Steve Stockman (Texas).
The House can now move to debating the bill and will vote on final passage later this afternoon, likely around 2 p.m.
Some of the Democrats who voted against the rule plan to vote for the cromnibus, including Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). Boehner will likely need significant Democratic support to pass the bill, given opposition from conservatives.
Democratic leaders on Thursday demanded changes to the package ahead of the final vote, saying provisions changing the Wall Street reform law and lifting limits on campaign giving should be stripped out.
"They've got martial law in the rule. Assuming they adopt the rule, they can change the bill, and I think we ought to do it," said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip. "That's our position, and we're sticking to it."
Leaders did not threaten to vote against the cromnibus, however.
Some Democrats are concerned that sinking the cromnibus now will only grant GOP leaders more sway over 2015 spending when they return next year with control of the Senate and more seats in the House.
"That," said Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), "is why I'm a little bit ambivalent."
The White House made a push ahead of the vote to get Democrats into the “yes” column, issuing a statement in support of the package.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the "compromise proposal merits bipartisan support on Capitol Hill" and that the president hoped that he would be able to sign it in the coming days.
"If there are Democrats who do choose to support this piece of legislation, there's ample reasons for them to do so," Earnest said.— Mike Lillis, Rebecca Shabad and Justin Sink contributed.