The House narrowly passed legislation Tuesday evening to raise the debt ceiling, all but ensuring that the nation won't default at the end of the month.
The 221-201 vote, carried by Democrats with just enough Republicans to push the bill over the finish line, represented a capitulation by House GOP leaders, who were forced to proceed with a "clean" measure after their flock failed to unify on any alternative.
Speaker John A. Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other senior Republicans had hinted over the past few weeks that they wanted to give their rank-and-file members a "sweetener" for raising the debt limit, as many in their flock said they weren't inclined to write what they called a "blank check" for President Barack Obama and get nothing in return. But leaders couldn't find a policy rider that would attract enough Republican support without alienating Democrats, whose support they knew would be critical to passing a debt limit extension.
Republicans' final gambit — restoring military pensions that were cut last year — didn't strike that balance, making a clean extension unavoidable and Democratic support more critical than ever.
“We don’t have 218 votes,” Boehner told reporters Tuesday morning. “When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing.” Democrats, meanwhile, were emboldened on Tuesday.
"I'm grateful to the speaker and the Republican leadership for giving this House this opportunity to act in a way that is consistent with the constitution," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking in the chamber in advance of the vote. "I thank my Democratic colleagues for never wavering from this position and standing firm on behalf of all Americans."