GOP House leaders feared defeat of debt-ceiling bill

According to GOP lawmakers involved in the floor strategy leading up to “final passage” of the bill, the wolf-pack of Republican Deputy Whips were on hand for much of the 30-minute vote on a Democratic amendment, before the final vote.

One GOP lawmaker who participated in the debate on the bill asked a deputy whip as the first vote started, "Well, think we have it?,” a source familiar with the exchange told The Hill. 

To which the deputy whip replied, "(the whip team) wouldn't be on the floor" to hear closing remarks if Republicans knew they had the votes.

Though most every member of the House was on the floor when final passage started, the tally board read 218-69 when the five-minute vote zeroed out.  

Essentially, 142 lawmakers waited to see if the bill would pass before casting their own vote on it.

Midway through the procedural vote, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE appeared on the floor. He assessed the situation from the back of the chamber, spoke to some key staffers before moving down the GOP aisle and stopping to talk with Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Rep. Culberson (R-Texas.)

Then he moved on to chat with the key bloc of conservatives who generally situate themselves midway back in the GOP side of the aisle, along the center aisle. 

Boehner made a point of pulling out his voting card, cracking some jokes with the lawmakers who tend to oppose leadership-backed bills.

Boehner sauntered through the well, making his way to the favorite corner of several veteran Republicans — where he eventually cast his vote, while physically casting the votes of those members sitting behind that particular voting station.

House GOP staffers stood in strategic positions along the back-railing of the chamber, while senior leadership aides checked in with the principal three top-ranking House Republican leaders.

As soon as the 218 “yea” votes appeared however, several veteran GOP lawmakers were surprised at the rush to support the measure.

"Did you see how many freshmen we got once the bill was winning?," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) noted. 

Up until the vote, it was unclear how the crop of nervous GOP freshmen would cast their lot. 

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) quipped that he had never seen the tally board jump from 218 yeas to 230+ in a single refresh of the system.

Ultimately the measure passed 285-144. Eighty-six Democrats joined 199 Republicans in approving the bill.