WASHINGTON — The House approved a yearlong suspension of the nation's debt limit Tuesday after a collapse in support for an earlier proposal advanced by Speaker John Boehner.
In a 221-201 vote, just 28 Republicans joined nearly all Democrats to approve a "clean" extension of the government's borrowing authority — one without strings attached — sending the measure to the Senate for a final vote, probably this week.
The legislation, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowed to pass and President Barack Obama said he would sign, would eliminate any chance of default on the debt — and the financial havoc that would ensue — until March 2015.
The Republican retreat probably ended a three-year war by the House GOP against what had been an obscure procedural maneuver to ensure that the nation's bills are paid on time. In early 2011, after claiming the majority, Republicans seized on the debt ceiling as leverage from which they could gain major concessions from Obama.
Twice they were able to do so, but Republicans undercut their position in October when they shut down the government and caused a national backlash. At the time, they also approved a temporary suspension of the debt ceiling, with vows to extract something from Obama this month. But with the political fallout from the impasse fresh in their minds, there was no desire among the House GOP to force another showdown.
Tuesday's vote marked the latest rebuke to Boehner from the conservative faction of his GOP caucus, which opposed several proposals his leadership team presented as a way to win Republican votes. His last offer, to link the debt hike to a popular proposal to restore cuts to some military pensions, was soundly rejected by rank-and-file Republicans.
Boehner then announced Tuesday morning that he would put a "clean" debt ceiling increase up for a vote.