Fail: House defeats Obama request to raise the debt ceiling, 318-97

Why would the GOP bring it to the floor knowing that they had more than enough votes to kill it? Simple: To make the Democrats choke on it, of course. The public is on the GOP’s side of this issue, unambiguously, and with plenty of independent support, so this was Boehner’s way of twisting a few center-left arms and building negotiating leverage for spending cuts with Obama.

Mission accomplished:

The Republican-controlled House voted 318-97 on the legislation that would have raised the federal government’s debt limit by approximately $2.4 trillion.

Under rules for the vote set by the GOP leadership, the measure needed at least two-thirds support to pass, ensuring it had no chance for approval.

The vote was scheduled by Republican leaders to show that any attempt to divorce an increase in the debt ceiling from spending reduction efforts — a move initially favored by the Obama White House — cannot win congressional approval.

Democrats called the move a dangerous political stunt that could rattle financial markets.

I don’t know why they imposed the two-thirds requirement. There was no chance that the Republican majority would let the bill would pass; raising the bar only gives Democrats who voted “no” an out with their base by letting them claim that the process was rigged to guarantee failure and therefore they felt no obligation to vote yes. Anyway, here’s the roll. Fully 82 Democrats voted with the GOP — among them Pelosi, Hoyer, and … DNC chief Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, which is all the proof you need of how nervous the White House is about being on the wrong side of this issue. More background from Philip Klein:

Just last month, 114 Democrats signed a letter calling for a “clean” vote and Democratic Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also advocated one. But today, Hoyer announced he was advising his caucus to vote against the measure. Ultimately, just 97 Democrats voted for it, with 82 explicitly voting against it (on top of the seven “present” votes). A total of 10 members (six Democrats, four Republicans) did not vote.

That’s a smart play by Pelosi and Hoyer to take some of the heat off of the centrists by framing their votes as simply doing the leadership’s bidding. Exit question: Seven Democrats voted “present,” presumably to signal their displeasure at what was, ultimately, a stunt. Why didn’t the others?