Breaking Down the Debt Ceiling Vote
Posted at 7:04 p.m. on Feb. 11
The House voted 221-201 to pass a clean debt ceiling hike for more than a year — and there are a few interesting trends hidden in the breakdown. (The Senate then passed the increase on Wednesday.)
Twenty-eight Republicans voted for the bill, which means this debt ceiling vote was the most extreme example of violating the principle that the speaker does not bring a bill to the floor without a “majority of the majority” — the so-called Hastert Rule, named after former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who broke that principle 12 times himself.
Before Tuesday, the greatest number of majority defections on a bill that passed the House was 41. (Coincidentally, Democrats and Republicans both achieved that same watermark. Democrats in 2007 with the “Protect America Act” and Republicans in 2002 with the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.”)
But Tuesday’s debt limit vote now stands alone with the fewest number of votes from a majority on a bill that passed the House since at least 1991, when digital records of roll call votes became available.
Of the 28 Republicans voting for the debt ceiling, there were only four members of GOP leadership: Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, and Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois. As a matter of principle, the speaker rarely votes, making this one particularly notable.
But what is also notable is how GOP leadership was split on the measure.
The No. 4 Republican in the House, Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, voted against the legislation, as did other members of GOP leadership including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon, House GOP Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, Republican Conference Secretary Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, and GOP Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford of Oklahoma. It’s worth noting that Lankford is running for Senate in Oklahoma.
GOP Committee Chairmen
Many of the first votes for the debt ceiling came from chairmen of various committees. Of the chairmen voting for the bill, there were: Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa of California, Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce of California, Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon of California and Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington.
That means 15 other GOP committee chairmen voted against the measure, including Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
Some Republicans who fall along a more centrist point on the political spectrum — the same ones who fought for a “clean” bill to fund federal operations during the government shutdown — voted “yes” on Tuesday. They include Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and three New Yorkers: Michael G. Grimm, Peter T. King and Richard Hanna.
The politically tricky vote for a debt ceiling was made easier for those Republicans who are retiring. Included in that group is McKeon, Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, Jon Runyan of New Jersey and Howard Coble of North Carolina.
Vulnerable Republicans were faced with a choice about how to vote Tuesday night. These Republicans aren’t vulnerable because they face tough primary challengers from the right; they’re vulnerable because they reside in districts with light Republican support. Those lawmakers facing bruising re-election bids in November who voted with Democrats are: David Valadao and Gary G. Miller of California, Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Dave Reichert of Washington.
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., promised that at least 180 Democrats would vote for a clean debt ceiling increase, but in the end, he and other party leaders delivered more than that. Only two members of his party held out and voted no: Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah and John Barrow of Georgia.
Matheson and Barrow are two of the House Democratic Caucus’ most conservative members, and both Blue Dogs typically join with Republicans on fiscal issues. Matheson is also retiring at the end of the year, removing any incentive that might be lingering to vote along party lines.
The full breakdown of the vote can be found on the House Clerk’s site, where you can see how each individual member voted.
Correction: 7:32 p.m.
An earlier version of this post stated that Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., voted “no.” He voted “yes.”