Stepping off the podium Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, broke out in a little tune.
“Zip-a-dee-doo-dah-zip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, what a wonderful day,” he sang.
Yet, it was anything but a “wonderful day” for Boehner, who once again will be forced to move forward on the country’s economic business without the majority of his Republican caucus behind him. Boehner announced his intention to forge ahead with a vote to increase the country’s borrowing limit Tuesday night, leaning on Democratic support to get the job done ahead of a looming Feb. 27 deadline.
“It’s the fact that we don’t have 218 votes and when you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing,” Boehner told reporters Tuesday during a press conference, explaining why he was scheduling a 'clean' vote and eschewing earlier plans to include other provisions aimed at winning over conservatives.
The announcement reveals how contentious a vote to raise the country’s debt ceiling has become for Republicans as conservative campaign groups like Heritage Action for America, Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund pressure members to vote against the measure. For weeks, Republicans in the House of Representatives squabbled over the best way to get a policy victory in exchange for the tough vote. They had settled on a plan Monday to restore full pension benefits to military retirees, an offer they believed Democrats couldn’t refuse. Yet, that wasn’t enough to convince Boehner’s right flank to sign on to the plan.
“Our members are also very upset with the president, he won’t negotiate,” Boehner said. “He’s the one driving up the debt and the question they’re asking is, why should I deal with his debt limit? So the fact is, we’ll let the Democrats put the votes up, we’ll put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed.”
As long as the House Democrats fall in line behind Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Boehner will only need a handful of Republicans to vote in support of increasing the country’s borrowing limit. Boehner estimated he will need about 18 of his 232 member caucus to join him – and he insists he has the votes.
“This is a lost opportunity,” Boehner said during the press conference.
Boehner’s move left conservatives calling for the speaker to resign, a clear departure of the mood after Boehner led his caucus through rounds of fights with the White House during the government shutdown. The Senate Conservatives Fund sent an email to its supporters saying simply “John Boehner must be replaced.”
Meanwhile, at the White House, Boehner’s announcement signaled a win for Obama who has repeatedly said he would not negotiate over raising the debt limit.
Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council at the White House, said he hoped the speaker’s decision marked “the end of an era” as House Republicans have threatened three times not to raise the debt ceiling without something in return.“Our hope would be that now our country has reached a consensus … that the tactic of threatening default or threatening the full faith and credit of the United States for budget debates is over, off the table and never to happen again,” Sperling said during an event with reporters Tuesday. “If so, that would be a boost for confidence and long-term investment in the United States.”