House Republicans will allow a vote Tuesday on a measure to increase the government's borrowing limit with no strings attached, a clear concession to Democrats that comes after weeks of GOP wrangling.
GOP leaders broke the news to lawmakers Tuesday morning, according to someone who was in the room. Party leadership had floated repealing a cut to military veterans' pensions as a demand that could be paired with an unpopular debt-ceiling increase, but that proposal failed to gain traction with conservatives, just as other ones before it had in recent weeks. While initially House Speaker John Boehner had planned the vote for Wednesday, two Republican leadership aides confirmed that the vote will take place Tuesday instead because of a looming snow storm.
Speaking to reporters near the Capitol, Boehner blamed President Barack Obama for not negotiating over a plan that would stop the country from piling up red ink.
"This is a lost opportunity for America," Boehner said. "We could have sat down and worked together in a bipartisan manner to find cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit. It would have helped us begin to solve the spending problem we have, begin the process of paying down our debt. So I am disappointed."
The measure will need significant support from Democrats to pass, as many conservatives adamantly oppose a "clean" debt-ceiling increase.
"You've all known that our members are not crazy about voting to increase the debt ceiling," said Boehner, who will support the proposal along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Some conservatives quickly voiced their disapproval. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who chairs a coalition of House conservatives, opposes the measure since it doesn't include spending reforms, according to his spokesman, Stephen Bell.
The conservative group Club for Growth urged Republicans to vote no, and announced it would include the vote on its congressional scorecard. "When we heard that House leadership was scheduling a clean debt ceiling increase, we thought it was a joke," spokesman Andy Roth said. "Something is very wrong with House leadership, or with the Republican Party. This is not a bill that advocates of limited government should schedule or support."
While Democrats allowed significant concessions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in the past, more recently they have held firm in their view that any negotiations over the debt limit was poor politics and policy. "To even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible," Obama said last month. "It's absurd."
Boehner's move on Tuesday effectively throws in the towel on the debt-ceiling issue after years of brinksmanship. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, declared victory in a statement.
“When this measure passes, Congress will state unequivocally that the full faith and credit of the United States is not in doubt," Pelosi said. "I thank my Democratic colleagues for never wavering from this position and for standing firm on behalf of all Americans.”