In an end-of-session nail-biter vote, the House passed a short-term increase of the debt limit Wednesday, setting the stage for a February showdown on deficit spending.
was not a popular measure with centrist and vulnerable lawmakers, who
don’t want to be portrayed as allowing the nation to go deeper into
debt. The $290 billion increase would set the debt ceiling at $12.394
The vote was 218-214, but Democratic
leaders had to sweat it out. As the voting clock ticked down to zero,
the bill was losing, 203-208.
Thirty-nine Democrats rejected
the measure and not one Republican voted for it. Three members, Reps.
George Radanovich (R-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Bill Young
(R-Fla.), did not vote.
Most of the Democrats who voted against the debt increase are expected to face challenging reelection races.
of the four Democrats running for the Senate, Reps. Paul Hodes (N.H.),
Kendrick Meek (Fla.) and Charlie Melancon (La.), voted no. Rep. Joe
Sestak (Pa.), who is running against Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) in the
Democratic primary, voted yes.
In the lead-up to the vote,
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that he had
voted against lifting the debt limit when Republicans controlled
Congress. He admitted fault, labeling those votes as “votes of
demagoguery,” imploring his colleagues to back the measure.
Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (R-Ohio) said extending the borrowing
authority simply allows the federal government to “pile even more
irresponsible debt onto future generations.”
leaders said the limit needed to be raised to prevent the nation from
defaulting on its debts. They have justified the spending as necessary
to pull the nation out of recession. But Democrats facing tough
reelections are growing increasingly concerned that deficit spending
could be used against them in the 2010 election.
of the toxicity of the issue, the National Republican Congressional
Committee sent out news releases within minutes of the vote, attacking
nearly 50 Democrats in conservative districts for giving “party leaders
a $300 billion blank check.”
Leaders had hoped to pass a $1.8
trillion increase in the debt limit that would last beyond the November
elections. But centrist Democrats in the Senate balked, refusing to
support it without creating a special commission on reducing the
Hoyer backs such a commission, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and some House and Senate chairmen oppose it.
To allow lawmakers to go home for the Christmas recess, the House and Senate settled on a $300 billion increase in the debt that will last only a few months. That puts off the debate until February.
As the close vote concluded, Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) jokingly waved a red card in the well of the House. Red cards are handed in at the desk to change a vote from yes to no.
This story was updated at 8 p.m.