After day of drama, House raises the debt ceiling without conditions

Less than 24 hours after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tried to sell fellow Republicans on a plan to increase the nation’s borrowing limit with a modest condition attached, Democrats got exactly what they wanted: a no-strings-attached vote to raise the debt limit.

House Democrats provided nearly all of the votes to pass the measure, which will give the Treasury Department authority to increase borrowing until March 2015. The final vote was 221 to 201, with 199 Republicans and two Democrats voting against the measure. Crucially, 28 Republicans voted with Democrats in order to make sure the debt limit passed.

Congress had until Feb. 27 to increase the limit, according to the Treasury department, or the U.S. government would not be able to pay all of its bills.

After Monday evening’s meeting in the Capitol basement, it was clear Boehner’s leadership team did not have the votes for a debt limit increase with a minor provision — the repeal of a change to military pension plans enacted under a recent budget deal.

Boehner announced at a Tuesday morning news conference that he would rely on Democrats to pass the debt limit bill, one without any conditions.

“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,” Boehner said Tuesday morning. “He won’t even sit down to discuss these issues. He is the one driving up the debt, and the question they are asking is, why should I have to deal with his debt limit?”

Boehner voted for the clean debt limit increase, even though it is rare for the Speaker of the House to cast a vote.

Because of the passage of this debt limit increase, as well as the passage of a two-year spending bill in December, the possibility of debt default or a another government shutdown is unlikely before November’s mid-term elections.

This news also shows just how much the game has changed since the summer of 2011 when Congressional Republicans were able to get President Obama to agree to spending cuts in exchange for a debt limit increase.

The White House has since refused to make major concessions in exchange for increasing the nation’s borrowing limit. The Obama administration contends that it’s Congress’ responsibility to raise the limit if it authorizes spending that exceeds revenue.

The debt limit legislation passed Tuesday will now go to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

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