The postponement means a vote could occur on Friday, but the fate of the bill was uncertain. Republican leaders spent hours furiously whipping the bill, but still fell short of the 216 votes necessary for passage. House Democrats are unanimous in opposition to the bill.
The move came as running counts by National Journal and other media outlets showed that some two dozen Republicans remained opposed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the bill would promptly be tabled in the Senate if it succeeded in passing the House, leaving a final deal still far from reach with the nation set to begin defaulting on its debts next Tuesday.
The National Journal count showed that 22 House Republicans say they will vote no on the measure, three leaning no, and eight undecided.
Without any Democratic help, Boehner's bill to reduce the deficit by $915 billion over 10 years and increase the federal debt ceiling by $900 billion, can only lose 24 of the 240 Republican votes. The vote had been expected around 6 p.m. and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor Thursday afternoon that Democrats likely won't come to the rescue. "There will, in fact, be bipartisan opposition to this bill. But, I predict, there will be no Democrat for this bill."
Late in the day, lawmakers were advised that the House would in session on Saturday and Sunday, waiting for the Senate to act on either the Boehner bill or the previously defeated "cut, cap and balance" legisation backed by Republicans. "No other legislative action on the debt limit-other than a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution-is expected in the House," the Republican leadership warned.
The tenseness of the whipping could be seen outside of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's office late into the afternoon. One of the visitors was Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. On Wednesday, tensions broke out between Boehner lieutenants and Jordan, a tea party favorite who chairs the 170-plus member Republican Study Committee, when it was discovered RSC aides were working against Boehner's plan that would allow for an additional $1.5 increase in the debt ceiling early next year contingent on Congress enacting further deficit reductions.
With the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio reporting that Jordan's disloyalty has put him in jeopardy of being zeroed out of his district, Jordan was terse as he left McCarthy's office, saying it "was just a visit." A short while later, Boehner's office released a statement suggesting some détente had been reached. Whether that involved Jordan agreeing to help round up more GOP backing for Boehner's bill, was uncertain.
Boehner said: "Jim Jordan and I may not always agree on strategy, but we are friends and allies, and the word retribution is not in my vocabulary."
If Boehner's bill does pass, Reid's comments seem to underscore that the House's work will not be done. Boehner would not answer if his bill will be a take it or leave it proposition for the Senate.
Earlier Thursday, the entire Republican conference had met behind closed doors, in what several attendees described as a pep rally of sorts as Boehner sought support to pass his bill. House GOP leadership aides expressed confidence that it would pass. A defeat on the floor would hold enormous consequences for Boehner, who has put his speakership on the line with this vote.
But the House Republicans' outward enthusiasm about their two-step debt ceiling proposal is short-sighted about the reality that lies ahead. After tabling the Boehner plan, the Senate is expected to modify it to ensure greater protections to ensure the debt ceiling is raised again early next year. Neither the White House nor Democrats are willing to have the same debate in an election year, and the White House remains concerned that Boehner's plan will not do enough to prevent the ongoing threat of a credit rating downgrade.
It has taken the full force of the House Republican leadership team to build enough support within their ranks to move the Boehner plan to the floor Thursday afternoon. If the House has to vote again-with a Reid-ized version of their bill-Republicans would face an uphill battle to pass the bill again unless House Democrats come on board. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expects minimal defections on Boehner's plan, but Democrats would be more inclined to vote for compromise legislation that has White House support. The veto threat from the White House on Boehner's plan as is still holds.