House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reportedly told members of the House Democratic Caucus to vote their “individual consciences” when they were asked to approve the debt-celing deal cobbled together by the Obama White House and Congressional Republicans.
Consciences divided evenly, with ninety-five Democrats opposing the compromise agreement while ninety-five supported it in a Monday evening vote that saw the measure pass primarily on the basis of Republican backing —despite the fact that this was a deal promoted aggressively by a Democratic White House.
The final tally was 269 in favor, 161 opposed.
Republicans generally backed the deal, with 174 voting “yes” while sixty-six voted “no.”
Democrats were far more closely divided, with widespread opposition to what Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, described as a violation of “core Democratic ideals.”
While Pelosi cast her own viote in favor of the agreement, she did not “whip” her fellow Democrats to back the deal during a marathon caucus meeting Monday. The former speaker outlined the consequences of a default by the federal government if an agreement to raise the debt ceiling is not reached. But North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield, who attended the caucus session said Pelosi avoided pressuring House Democrats to fall in line with the Democrats in the White House. “She told us to leave it to our individual consciences,” Butterfield told reporters.
With the House vote done, the Senate will be vote Tuesday on the deal, which proposes radical cuts in federal programs—cuts that some fear will ultimately threaten Medicare and other Democratic “legacy” programs—in return for raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
The Senate is likely to back the deal that was cut between the Obama White House and Republican leaders; Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is already on board, as are key Republicans.
The general sense from the start was that the real test would come in the House, where Republican leaders had to scramble to keep Tea Party conservatives on board, and White House faced a revolt by progressives.
Even as Pelosi and House minority whip Steny Hoyer indicated personal support for the measure, a striking number of Democratic spoke out in opposition to Obama’s position before the hastily scheduled Monday evening vote.
Congressman Pete DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat who frequently breaks with the White House when he feels the president is not doing enough to address unemployment, went to the House floor Monday to declare that this is a “no jobs” deal. Ohio Congressman Marcy Kaptur was opposed. Veteran New York Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Eliot Engle indicated early on that they are firmly opposed, as did former House Ways and Means Committee chair Charles Rangel, D-New York. Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was another “no.” California Congresswoman Maxine Waters announced her “no” vote with a declaration that the deal was “one of the worst pieces of public policy” she had ever seen.