GOP postpones vote on Boehner plan

GOP postpones vote on Boehner plan

House Republican leaders have postponed indefinitely a vote on Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerPrinciples to unify America Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats Obama on bipartisanship: 'There is a way to reach out and not be a sap' MOREs (R-Ohio) debt-limit bill after they could not persuade enough Republicans to support the measure.

No vote tonight, the third-ranking House Republican, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), told reporters after leaving BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerPrinciples to unify America Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats Obama on bipartisanship: 'There is a way to reach out and not be a sap' MOREs office shortly before 10:30 p.m. The move throws into upheaval the desperate push in Washington to raise the nations $14.3 trillion debt limit to avert a national default next Tuesday, Aug. 2.

The House Rules Committee convened at 11 p.m. to pass a rule allowing the GOP to revise and vote on the bill Friday.

“As of right now, its apparent that we dont have the votes for a number of reasons,” the Rules Committee chairman, Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), said at the outset of the often-testy emergency hearing.

The committees action allows Republicans to continue reworking the bill through Aug. 2. If changes are made to the legislation, it would have to go to the Rules Committee but also could hit the House floor without having to wait a legislative day.

The GOP leadership scheduled a meeting of the full conference Friday morning.

“We will discuss various options for going forward, but our objectives remain the same,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told reporters after exiting Boehners office, shortly after the leadership scrapped the vote.

Pence did not identify any particular issue that was keeping members from backing the package.

“Each legislator has, in some respects, different concerns,” he said. When asked if Republicans can get a package approved, Pence replied, “I remain optimistic that well find a way forward.”

House Republican leaders are extremely frustrated with members of their conference.

There is a particular irritation toward South Carolina Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSpokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome Former Graham challenger Jaime Harrison launches political action committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE for publicly opposing the House bill.

A House GOP member, speaking on background, said the two senators opposition has played a major role in the resistance from Republican members of the South Carolina delegation.

The lawmaker added that redistricting and the fear of Tea Party challenges are significantly impeding the whipping operation.

Republicans announced the postponement after a harried day and evening of arm-twisting in which they worked to convince reluctant lawmakers to support Boehners measure to raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion and cut deficits by $917 billion over the next decade.

The postponement came more than four hours after the time for which Republicans initially had scheduled the vote. Throughout the afternoon and evening, GOP lawmakers shuttled in and out of leadership offices, but not enough moved off their opposition for Boehner to take the bill to the floor.

House Democrats have vowed to oppose the bill en masse, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The Hill shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday that her party was holding firm in its opposition as Boehner tried to wrangle a majority out of his own membership.

She seized on the postponement of the vote to call on GOP leaders to return to negotiations with Democrats.

“Hopefully, now the Republicans will come back to the table to negotiate a bipartisan, balanced agreement that is overwhelmingly supported by the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Republicans have taken us to the brink of economic chaos. The delay must end now so we can focus on the American people’s top priority: creating jobs and growing the economy.”

The bill’s failure would represent a stunning embarrassment for Boehner, who has argued to his members that the proposal is the party’s best chance to “hold the president’s feet to the fire” and force real spending cuts in exchange for a debt-limit increase. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWhitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee Bottom line Bottom line MORE (D-Nev.) and a bloc of united Senate Democrats promised to defeat the measure as soon as it passed, hoping to force Boehner back to the bargaining table to forge a compromise.

The White House has threatened a presidential veto of Boehner’s bill because it would authorize an increase in the debt ceiling only through about February, and not through 2012. The Boehner bill would condition a subsequent increase in borrowing authority on congressional enactment of a $1.8 trillion deficit-reduction package and votes in both the House and Senate on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

Lawmakers described Boehner and other Republican leaders as “respectful” in their pleas for support, but several emerged from private meetings saying they would not change their votes. Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah), a no vote, said he was pleasantly surprised GOP leaders weren't “twisting and ripping arms off” but that he couldn’t vote to raise the debt limit without fundamental changes to the legislation.

Boehner and his lieutenants appeared to be focusing on a range of lawmakers rather than merely a few holdouts. Over the course of the day, they called in several conservatives who had been resolutely opposed to the Speaker’s bill from the start.

“I’m still a bloody and beaten no,” Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-Texas) told reporters after a meeting Thursday evening in Boehner’s office. Earlier in the day, he likened the frenzied whip effort to the hours leading up to the 2008 vote on the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“It feels like TARP did,” Gohmert said after a morning conference meeting. “The pressure from our leadership to cave and vote for TARP feels very similar to the pressure right now.”

The arm-twisting in itself was a departure for Boehner, who has championed the idea that the House would “work its will” and that legislation would not be dictated from the Speaker’s office. The newest members found themselves in unfamiliar territory as they paraded into leadership offices. When freshman Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) arrived at Boehner’s suite, he had to ask the reporters standing outside for directions to Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorSpanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida hangs in the balance Eric Cantor teams up with former rival Dave Brat in supporting GOP candidate in former district MORE’s (R-Va.) office upstairs.

While conservatives pushed for deeper spending cuts and a stronger balanced-budget amendment, another obstacle for Republican leaders became clear: After banning earmarks at the outset of the 112th Congress, they have few possible sweeteners to offer to reluctant swing votes. Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeProfiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers McSally concedes Arizona Senate race The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare front and center; transition standoff continues MORE (R-Ariz.), a long-time earmark foe who had leaned against the Boehner bill, said it was “so refreshing” to have a debate with the pork-barrel projects off the table. He joked that it would have cost the party $20 billion if earmarks had been in the mix.

Several Republicans said that without any Senate action on the debt ceiling, the party essentially was compromising with itself. Rep. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDemocrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer unveils detailed analysis of COVID-19 vaccine & next steps GOP senators congratulate Harris on Senate floor MORE (R-S.C.), a member of the leadership team opposing the bill, cited his experience as an insurance executive in arguing the GOP should not have moved so quickly off the “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill it passed last week that also was deemed dead on arrival in the Senate.

“Once you’ve made your offer, you just stay quiet,” Scott said.

Other lawmakers pointed to $17 billion in appropriations for Pell Grants included in the bill.

“I really don’t understand why we’re increasing spending in a bill [that is] supposed to be cutting spending,” said freshman Republican Rep. Andy Harris (Md.). “It was negotiated without the input of a lot of members.”

But Scott said Pell Grants were not the issue that kept the measure from passing.

As the House was voting on a separate appropriations bill Thursday afternoon, Boehner shuttled a trio of undecided Republicans — Reps. Chuck FleischmannCharles (Chuck) Joseph FleischmannDemocrats may bring DHS bill to House floor GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says public health threat of loneliness compounded by COVID-19; Trump says task force will 'evolve' MORE (Tenn.), Tom McClintock (Calif.) and Bill Posey (Fla.) — into an office off the House floor for private meetings. Fleischmann subsequently said he would vote yes.

As Posey was leaving, Boehner opened the office door and gave him an enthusiastic handshake in view of a gaggle of reporters watching.

Yet by the end of the night, Boehner still was short on votes.

Leaving the Speaker’s office, Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) sounded a note of frustration with some in the GOP conference.

“I was ready to vote for it, I was told we were going to vote tonight,” Long said. “There’s just a group of ’em who are convinced they can get more out of the deal.”

Asked if he expected a vote Friday, Long said, “I'm done guessing.”

Russell Berman, Erik Wasson, Bernie Becker, Peter Schroeder, Mike Lillis, Molly K. Hooper, Bob Cusack, Elise Viebeck, Alexander Bolton and Cristina Marcos contributed reporting.

This story was posted at 10:33 p.m. and updated at 12:08 a.m.

Correction: The vote Thursday night by the House Rules Committee means legislation can go to the House floor without having to wait a day. An earlier version of this story included incorrect information.