During a series of votes on alternative budget proposals, Democrats made a play to sucker GOP lawmakers into passing a proposal from the conservative Republican Study Committee that calls for dramatic cuts that even some GOP Members would find too drastic.
At one point during the vote, a majority of Republicans were on record in favor of the RSC budget. Democrats then began casting votes as “present,” rather than “no,” as they would be expected to do. Without the Democratic "no" votes, the amendment would be adopted and would supersede Budget ranking member Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) ballyhooed budget.
After time for the vote expired, Republicans held it open so that enough of them could switch their votes to prevent the RSC budget from passing.
In the end, only 119 of the 176 RSC Members voted for their own budget proposal, authored by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.). Because so many Democrats voted "present," meanwhile, the final tally was 136-119 against – a bizarre total in a chamber with 435 members. Had nine Republicans not switched sides, the measure would've passed. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) switched her vote from "aye" to "no" at the last minute, as did Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee.
A total of 172 Democrats ended up voting "present" instead of "no."
Amid the voting chaos, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) tweeted, “Dems voting present on RSC budget to highlight GOP divisions, plans to end Medicare - which bdgt does GOP support?”
The Republican Whip’s office didn’t see the move coming. A spokeswoman for Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) didn’t know what was happening when asked by a HuffPost reporter.
The RSC budget, like Ryan’s, cuts taxes for the wealthy. But it goes even further on cuts to discretionary and mandatory spending, balancing the budget by 2020. The Medicare changes proposed in the RSC budget are similar to Ryan's plan, but the RSC budget would allow seniors to opt into the system after 2017 -- if any are interested in doing so. Medicaid, meanwhile, would be transformed into a block-grant program for states, but it would receive less funding than under the Ryan plan.
Watch video of the chaos on the house floor:
Elise Foley and Ryan Grim contributed to this report.