House Rejects ‘Clean’ Debt Hike

by Andrew Stiles

The House rejected, by a resounding margin — 318 to 97 — the Obama administration’s request for a “clean” $2 trillion increase to the federal debt limit, currently set at $14.3 trillion. Republicans were united against the measure, voting 236 to 0 against, while Democrats were split down the middle, 97 to 82 in favor, with seven voting “present.”

Republicans knew the vote would fail, which is precisely why they held it. (Also, it couldn’t hurt have at least one “Congressman X voted against raising the debt ceiling” tagline under their belts — and a corresponding “Congressman Y voted to raise the debt ceiling” for the Democrats who voted yes.) Either way, the result was a decisive display of the bipartisan opposition to a debt ceiling increase absent some measure of spending cuts and reforms.

The vote was called under a suspension of the rules, meaning it would have needed a two-thirds majority to pass. There was some commotion in the House Gallery when the vote began, as two Republicans unwittingly cast ‘aye’ votes before realizing their mistake and switching.

Earlier in the day, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) told reporters he would be instructing his caucus “not to play this political charade” and vote against a clean increase to the debt limit, a position he once supported. Democrats, however, were in an awkward position as 114 of them — nearly two-thirds of the caucus — had signed a letter in April demanding such a vote.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today reiterated President Obama’s support of a clean increase. “We believe [deficit reduction and the debt ceiling increase] should not be linked because there is no alternative that’s acceptable to raising the debt ceiling,” he said. “But we’re committed to reducing the deficit.”

President Obama will meet with House Republicans on Wednesday, and House Democrat on Thursday, to discuss the ongoing deficit negotiations.

Republicans, meanwhile, reaffirmed their position that any increase to the debt ceiling must be accompanied by significant spending cuts and reforms. “Tonight’s vote shows the House is listening to the American people,” House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said in a statement. “Raising the debt limit without major spending cuts and meaningful reforms would hurt our economy and destroy more jobs, adding to our debt crisis. Today the House stood with the American people and said very clearly that this course of action is unacceptable.”

Hoyer and other Democrats spent the day bemoaning the “sham” vote and expressed half-hearted concern that a failed vote could have a negative impact on the stock market. Meanwhile…