Updated 11:42 a.m. | Unable to sell their conference on their latest plan to raise the debt limit, Republican leaders plan to vote today on a “clean” debt limit increase.
“We don’t have 218 votes,” Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters. “When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing.”
Boehner said he expects nearly every Democrat to back the clean debt limit increase and said he had spoken to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and she agreed they would.
“Let his party give him the debt ceiling he wants,” the Ohio Republican said of President Barack Obama, who had vowed not to negotiate on the debt limit again.
But some Republicans will still have to vote for the bill.
“We’re going to have to find ‘em, I’ll be one of them,” Boehner said.
Boehner, who has long sought to use the debt limit as a leverage point to move other priorities, called the party’s inability to agree on a plan a “lost opportunity” and “a disappointing moment.”
The plan released last night would have restored military pensions that were cut in last year’s budget deal. Republicans now plan to vote on that issue separately — with both votes planned to be held later today to get ahead of a snowstorm expected later this week, GOP leadership aides said.
The military pension plan was only the latest of many Republican leader trial balloons to get shot down by their rank and file — including proposals to attach the Keystone XL pipeline and repeal a portion of the Affordable Care Act.
Republican leaders were caught between White House and Democratic demands for a clean hike and Republican conservatives who didn’t want to vote for anything, and others who were angry that they would have to choose whether to vote to support the troops or vote against raising the debt limit. Other Republicans complained that the plan would effectively increase spending for nine years only to cut it in the 10th year by extending part of the sequester — when many wanted more cuts sooner.
The difficulty of the task was noted by Boehner last week when he said attaching the canonization of Mother Teresa to the debt limit hike probably wouldn’t be enough to get enough Republican votes to pass a debt limit hike.
“Listen: You’ve all known that our members are not big about voting for an increase in the debt ceiling,” Boehner said today.
Republican were “upset” with Obama’s insistence that he would not negotiate on the issue.
And so, Boehner said, Republicans were asking, “‘Why should I have to 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.”
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said Democrats would provide 180 or more votes. “We’ll see how many Republicans act responsibly,” he said.
But Hoyer reacted incredulously to the GOP leadership’s inability to find 218 Republican votes for any plan.
“Isn’t that pathetic? Isn’t that pathetic? Isn’t that pathetic?” Hoyer said.
Earlier, Boehner left his news conference today singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”
Emma Dumain, Daniel Newhauser and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.