The product of hours and hours of hard-fought negotiations could be lost Thursday if House Democrats decide, just hours before the government is to due to shut down, to band together and rebuff a trillion-dollar federal spending bill over two so-called "poison pill" policy riders.
Judging by a nail-bitingly close vote on a procedural measure to bring the legislation to the floor for full consideration, Democrats could have leverage to get the riders scrapped, or at least kill the bill and force what could be a better or worse deal, depending who's being asked: A three-month continuing resolution that would fund government operations into the new year.
“If we don’t get finished today, we’re going to be here until Christmas,” Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, warned. In a rare move for the House's most senior lawmaker, Boehner voted on the rule to give his party another "yes."
At a certain point, the votes were tied. At the very end, Republican leaders pressured two members to vote "yes." One, Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, had been holding out until the last moment; Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, who will leave congress at the end of this session, changed his vote from "no" to "yes" as many of his colleagues booed with displeasure.
The gavel came down and the final tally, 214-212, was called immediately after.
The vote breakdown could be a harbinger for the Thursday afternoon vote on final passage, making the decision to proceed with debate on the bill a risky one for leaders, who have until now insisted that the votes were there to pass the bill.
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