It was a dramatic, roller-coaster kind of day on Capitol Hill today. After an early postponement, prayers and intense jockeying for votes from his own party by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), the House called it a night a little after 10 p.m. ET without voting on the Republican-crafted plan to lift the debt ceiling.
The Washington Post and Politico described the atmosphere in Congress as one of furious negotiations, where Boehner and his deputies pulled out all the stops. The vote was first scheduled for around 6:30 p.m. ET, but was delayed because the Speaker was missing a handful of votes. For hours, Republicans who were either on the fence or thinking of voting "no" were escorted into Boehner's ceremonial office for one-on-one talks.
After Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, came out of the chambers, he told Politico he was a "bloody beaten-down no." According to the Post, two members of the South Carolina delegation — Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney — left Boehner's office and headed into a nearby chapel to pray for enlightenment.
In the end, Boehner was unable gather the 217 votes he needed — especially from the Tea-Party-backed freshmen — to get his budget bill through the House, which casts serious doubts on Boehner's ability to lead the chamber. Now, the door opens for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to try to advance his own plan, which he can present as the only solution still viable and passable before the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury.
In a press conference earlier today, Speaker Boehner conceded that the bill was "not perfect."
"What this bill reflects is a sincere, honest effort to end this crisis in an bipartisan way, to send it to the Senate where it can receive action," he said.
Some of the Republican and Tea-Party-backed freshman members of the House held a press conference of their own in support of the bill today.
"Is this as big as we wanted to go?" Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin asked. "Heck, no. We ran on going bigger, but this is the only proposal on the table that accomplishes the goals we set out to do."
On the House floor, Democrats attacked the Boehner plan saying it "kicked the can down the road," and that it was a solution that disproportionately affected the working class and poor. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the plan did not provide the longer-term stability that Reid's competing plan in the Senate provides.
Reid's proposal would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and reduce deficits by $2.2 trillion over 10 years.
Boehner's Budget Control Act of 2011 would raise the debt ceiling enough to get the government through this year and would then require Congress to authorize a second hike in January. In total, the bill would raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion and also reduce deficits by $22 billion in fiscal year 2012 and $917 billion over the next 10 years.
If you're interested in reading about the specifics of each plan, the independent Congressional Budget Office published a blog post comparing them.
Update at 11:10 p.m. Analysis From It's All Politics:
Our friend Frank James has analysis on what this night means for Boehner's Speakership.