WASHINGTON -- House GOP leadership announced abruptly on Thursday evening that they were suspending a vote on Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) debt ceiling proposal, signaling in the process that the GOP lacked the votes to pass the package.
The news came just minutes before party leadership was set to hold a 5:30 p.m. vote on the proposal, which would cut roughly $915 billion in spending over the next ten years but only raise the debt ceiling through the end of the calendar year.
Congressional aides were scrambling to figure out just when the vote would be rescheduled for -- the House for now will consider eight smaller measures first -- but a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that a vote on Boehner's proposal would still take place on Thursday night.
Whether that is enough time for the Speaker to convince a few more Republicans to support him is unclear. Informal whip counts had 25 Republicans and the full Democratic caucus opposing the measure, which would put it short of the 216 votes needed for passage.
The bill's delay, and the continued unlikelihood of its passage, gave Democrats yet another hook to argue that the entire enterprise was fruitless. As one aide emailed, with respect to Boehner's bill: "we're wasting precious time so he can twist more arms for a bill that is dead [in the Senate]."
UPDATE: 6:40 p.m. -- Emerging from meetings with the Republican leadership, members who had threatened to vote no on Boehner's plan to raise the debt limit said the Speaker was respectful in asking them to support the package.
"I could arm-wrestle any of you," Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said, joking that his arm had not been twisted by leadership.
Franks declined to comment on how he would vote, though he said his mind was made up. But others, such as Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), were more talkative, saying they were still "no" votes for the Boehner bill.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said he was unconvinced by the "very respectful" appeals of the House GOP leadership, adding he is still a "bloodied and beaten-down 'no.'"
"It's been a tough week for those of us who have said, 'Harry Reid said it was 'dead on arrival' in the Senate,'" Gohmert said. "Why are we compromising with ourselves?'"
Elise Foley contributed reporting.