Facing a rebellion over his latest debt ceiling proposal, Speaker John A. Boehner has told House Republicans that he will bring legislation to a vote on Wednesday that would raise the government’s borrowing authority with no strings attached.“House Republican leaders told members this morning that it is clear the paid-for military COLA provision will not attract enough support, so we will be bringing up a ‘clean’ debt limit bill tomorrow,” a Republican official said, referring to a plan on veterans’ benefits. “Boehner made clear the G.O.P. would provide the requisite number of Republican votes for the measure but that Democrats will be expected to carry the vote.”
On Monday night, Mr. Boehner laid out a plan to link the debt ceiling increase to legislation that would have reversed a cut to veteran retirement benefits. But conservative Republicans opposed the plan, and Republican leaders worried that Democrats would not go along, holding firm to President Obama’s demand that no policy attachments come with a debt ceiling increase.
On Tuesday, the speaker gave up, a dramatic gesture for a leader who once declared the “Boehner Rule,” which holds that any debt ceiling increase should be attached to spending cuts of equal size. A House Republican who was in the room for the speaker’s announcement described the response as “stunned silence.”
At a breakfast with reporters on Tuesday, Gene B. Sperling, the director of the White House National Economic Council, said the president did support bipartisan efforts to reverse a trim of 1 percentage point to cost-of-living increases for working-age veterans — at least for those already receiving such benefits. That seems to indicate that he would have signed a debt ceiling increase with that provision, although Mr. Sperling declined to comment on the exact legislation.
But winning a “clean” increase in the debt limit would be a clear victory for the president, who negotiated a deficit deal in 2011 under the shadow of a default, accepted a provision last year demanding that the Senate pass a budget in exchange for a debt limit increase, and now has won complete capitulation.
“I hope the tactic of threatening default for budget debates is over, off the table and never to happen again,” Mr. Sperling said, adding that the decision will be “a boost for confidence and investment in the U.S.”
Mr. Boehner explained the decision to go forward with a “clean” debt ceiling bill as a reflection of the political reality that he simply did not have enough Republican votes to pass anything more ambitious.
“It’s the fact that we don’t have 218 votes,” he said after meeting with House Republicans, “and when you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing.”