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Showdown averted House passes clean debt ceiling raise bill

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The House of Representatives voted 221-201 on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 11, 2014 to raise the debt ceiling limit until March 2015 averting another showdown, without adding any conditions to the bill, which was passed predominantly with Democratic votes. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH announced to during a press conference earlier on Tuesday his intention to bring a clean bill to a vote, after he was unable to garner enough votes for increasing the limit ties with a provision to repeal the cut to veteran's pensions included in the budget. The provision instead was later voted on separately, passing with overwhelming bipartisan support 326-90 to repeal the $7 billion in cuts.

The debt ceiling passed with a close vote of 221-201. The bill however, relied heavily on Democrats with 193 representatives voting to pass receiving the support of only 28 Republicans including the Speaker of the House and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA. The bill ensures the debt ceiling is raised until March 15, 2015. Currently the debt limit is capped at $17.2 trillion.

Speaker Boehner in announcing to the press his plans to bring the clean bill without conditions to a vote spoke to the press on Tuesday was very much aware that the bill needed primarily Democrats to pass it through. Boehner announced; "You all know that our members are not crazy about voting to increase the debt ceiling. 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."

It was more than necessary for the House to pass a debt ceiling raise, the current stop-gap bill expired on Friday, Feb. 7 with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew invoked the "extraordinary measures" to temporarily avert a government default until Thursday, Feb. 27, and the House had to pass the bill before their begin their two week break on Wednesday, Feb. 12 and only returning on Feb. 25.

Speaking prior to the vote Boehner expressed Republicans' dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama distancing himself from the negotiations acknowledging it would be more difficult to gain the Republican votes needed to pass the bill. Boehner stated; "Our members are also very upset with the president. He won't negotiate, he won't deal with our long-term spending problems without us raising taxes, he won't even sit down and discuss these issues. 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, and we'll put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed."

Since Republicans wanted conditions, "concessions" added to a debt ceiling bill, the Speaker in his most recent proposal added a "repeal the cuts to the cost of living reduction increases" for "retired military personnel" that had been included in the budget, but opposed by many Republican, still it was not enough to garner the necessary Republicans votes. Democrats however, were not willing to support any other bill than a clean one without conditions forcing Boehner on Monday to decide to abandon the conditions route for the easiest way to ensure the country does not default.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA reiterated that position to the press after a Democratic caucus meeting on Tuesday; "We think no matter who the president is and who controls the Congress, the full faith and credit of the United States of America is not negotiable."

A Republican aide to the Speaker told the press Tuesday morning; "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. 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."

Since this increase on the debt ceiling did not accompany a cut to the deficit, which is the Speaker termed the "Boehner Rule" during the 2011 showdown, the press asked if it no longer applies, which the Speaker replied; "I would hope not. As I've said before, this is a lost opportunity." Conservative Republicans especially were displeased with Boehner raising the debt ceiling without any conditions or deficit cuts, and conservative groups were calling for Boehner to be replaced at House speaker.

Boehner was "disappointed" about Republicans not choosing to raise the debt ceiling, and in turn expressed; "We could have sat down and worked together in a bipartisan manner to find cuts and reforms that are greater than increasing the debt limit. I am disappointed, to say the least."

Since the government shutdown, Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have promised that the nation would not default on its loans. This is partially because according to a CNN/ORC International poll Republicans would shoulder most of the blame if the government would have defaulted by 54 percent, only 29 percent would have blamed the President and a minimal 12 percent said the Republican Congress and Obama would have been at fault.

The bill now proceeds to the Senate, where a Democratic majority should make it easier to pass, however, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX has planned a filibuster, stating; "Under no circumstances will I agree to the Senate's raising the debt ceiling with just 50 votes. I intend to object and force a 60 vote threshold. I think Republicans should stand together and do the right thing. We should have every Republican stand together and follow the responsible course of action, which is to insist on meaningful spending reforms before raising the debt ceiling."

The measure however, has the approval of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, who stated; "We're happy to see the House is legislating the way they should have legislated for a long time." The Senate will probably will vote on the issue Wednesday, in order to get the bill top President Obama swiftly enough to sign. The clean bill already has White House support with Press Secretary Jay Carney calling it at Tuesday's daily press briefing, "a positive step in moving away from the political brinkmanship that's a needless drag on our economy."

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