Boehner Gives In, Introduces Clean Debt Ceiling Bill

| Tue Feb. 11, 2014 8:51 AM PST

John Boehner has surrendered completely on the debt ceiling. None of his proposals managed to attract majority support among Republicans, so now he plans to introduce a clean bill and leave it up to Democrats to pass it:

"House Republican leaders told members this morning that it is clear the paid-for military COLA provision will not attract enough support, so we will be bringing up a 'clean' debt limit bill tomorrow," a Republican official said, referring to a plan on veterans' benefits. "Boehner made clear the G.O.P. would provide the requisite number of Republican votes for the measure but that Democrats will be expected to carry the vote."

…Mr. Boehner explained the decision to go forward with a "clean" debt ceiling bill as a reflection of the political reality that he simply did not have enough Republican votes to pass anything more ambitious.

"It's the fact that we don't have 218 votes," he said after meeting with House Republicans, "and when you don't have 218 votes, you have nothing." He added that he expected almost all of the House Democrats to vote to pass the bill, though he said he would still need to muster about 18 Republican votes to get the legislation over the finish line. "We'll have to find them," Mr. Boehner said. "I'll be one."

So whom did Boehner surrender to? That's actually a little fuzzy. Democrats were willing to support his previous plan, which would have tied the debt limit increase to a restoration of full benefits for veterans, but it was the tea party that rebelled against that plan. So in a way, this was basically a surrender to the tea party.

In any case, that's that. Boehner has decided (probably wisely) to take one for the team and get a bill passed so that Republicans can move on. In a way, this is the best choice he could have made. He gets the debt limit off the table, which is good for the party, since it means no more public debacles getting in the way of their election-year messages. At the same time, he's allowing virtually the entire Republican caucus to vote against it, which is also good for the party, since it allows individual candidates to rail against it and attack big-spending Democrats. And who loses? No one, really. Boehner himself will take some flack as a sellout, but he's been taking it anyway.

So will Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan vote for the debt ceiling increase? How about Kevin McCarthy, who will theoretically be the guy in charge of rounding up those 18 votes? Good question. Wait and see.

John Boehner/Flickr

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