Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio. (Jim Watson / AFP)
WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders abandoned an effort to tie a pending vote to raise the nation's borrowing limit to a repeal of a minor military pension cut and instead will vote Tuesday evening on a "clean" bill to suspend the debt ceiling through March 2015.
The bill is expected to pass with strong support from Democrats, who have been asking for a bill with no conditions attached. House Republican leaders — who pitched the pensions plan Monday evening — had abandoned it by early Tuesday when it became clear they it lacked sufficient support from their own members.
House Republicans will still vote on a separate bill to repeal a 1% reduction in cost-of-living adjustments to pensions for current working age military retirees, which has bipartisan support.
Boehner said the burden would be on Democrats to pass the debt limit increase, which President Obama has asked for without conditions.
"(President Obama) is the one driving up the debt. Then the question they're asking is, well, why should I deal with his debt limit? And 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," he said.
The decision to move a debt limit increase with no conditions is an abandonment of an informal rule enforced by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, since taking the gavel in 2011 that any increase in the debt ceiling be offset by equal or greater cuts in federal spending. "I am disappointed to say the least," Boehner said.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he expects "180 plus" Democrats to support the bill, and he pushed back against Boehner's comments that Democrats were driving up the debt. The debt limit authorizes the federal government to borrow money to pay for obligations that the government has already agreed to — not to authorize new spending.
"It is the Republican Party that ran up deep debts under (President) George Bush and put the economy in a tailspin and created the worst recession since the Great Depression," said Hoyer.
"Isn't that pathetic?" Hoyer added, in response to Boehner's comments that the GOP will only provide the bare minimum votes to approve the debt hike. "Isn't that pathetic that the party that is in charge of the House of Representatives can only get 18 votes to make sure that their nation pays its bills, meets its responsibilities and tells the rest of the world and its own citizens that we have the courage to stand up and do what we know is the right thing to do?"
The Democratic-led Senate is expected to vote after the House. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., praised the decision. "The House has come to the realization that following the hard right on the debt ceiling made no sense, which is good for the House, good for the Republican Party and good for America," he said.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the government will hit its limit on Feb. 27. Congress is not in session next week for the Presidents Day break. The Senate is likely to vote after the break.