President Barack Obama bailed out House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday night. After the House embarrassed Boehner by almost killing his 1,774-page $1.1 trillion cromnibus bill on a purely procedural vote earlier in the day, House Democrats pitched in to provide the votes to pass it.
“My job tonight is to say thank you and Merry Christmas,” Boehner said in a rare floor appearance after the measure barely passed the House 219-206 after a day of pure chaos in Congress.
Earlier in the say, every Democrat who voted on the rule voted against it. That nearly derailed the bill, as at one point there were enough Republicans to voting against the rule to kill it. Then Reps. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) and Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) switched their votes from nays to yeas on the rule, allowing the House to take up the cromnibus bill after a 214-212 vote. The presiding officer of the House had kept that vote open past the time allotted for the vote to twist arms of those two and more, and once they broke enough members to pass the rule they passed the bill.
It’s worth noting that as the full House debated the rule, Rules Committee chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) was AWOL. Normally the chairman of the Rules Committee will champion a bill on the floor while debating against the Rules Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Slaughter showed up for the debate, but since Sessions disappeared amid massive criticism for his role in enabling this bill’s passage, Republicans needed to field Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)–a staunch ally of Boehner’s–to debate Slaughter.
After the rule passed, the full House debated the cromnibus bill for about an hour–then went into an unexpected several-hour-long recess from shortly after 2 p.m. until right about 9 p.m. as the fate of the final passage was in jeopardy. During this time, it was clear Boehner didn’t have the votes for final passage as about 50 or 60 Republicans were planning to vote against the bill–and the Democrats were in full revolt.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Financial Services Committee ranking member Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) worked to lead a revolt among House Democrats–and it became unclear whether Boehner would get the 50-plus Democratic votes he needed to pass this bill.
In came President Barack Obama, who along with Vice President Joe Biden and other top White House officials worked the phones with Congressional Democrats to pressure them into voting for the bill. Obama sent White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to the Capitol to persuade Democrats in a closed-door conference meeting into voting for the bill.
Then, after signs the bill would fail as Democrats resisted Obama’s and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer’s efforts to get them to support the measure–with Waters telling Democrats to not let Obama “intimidate” them–Boehner worked up a plan B, which was a clean Continuing Resolution that would have funded all of government at current levels through Feb. 27 when the new GOP controlled Senate and emboldened House GOP majority takes over. Boehner worked that plan B into an effort to “roll the dice” and bring the cromnibus bill to the floor for a vote in an attempt to call conservatives’ and liberals’ bluffs. If the cromnibus passed, that’d be what they move forward with. If it didn’t, they’d turn immediately to plan B.
When the cromnibus finally came up for the vote shortly after 9 p.m. Obama’s efforts clearly paid off. Obama’s lobbying of Hill Democrats secured 57 Democratic yea votes for Boehner’s omnibus, more than enough to close the gap of 67 Republican nays.
A whopping 139 Democrats voted against the bill, despite Obama’s support, and 162 Republicans voted for the measure.
Any Republican who backed the Obama-Boehner cromnibus bill that backs Obama’s executive amnesty with full funding, however, could be in grave political danger in the years ahead. Nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, who played an integral role in taking down now former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, promised to take down as many of them as she can. She says:
We will not forget the betrayal. There will come a time you will come calling on us, you will need us to help you, and when that day comes, don’t be surprised if many of those rock-ribbed conservative across the country will not answer the call to help you because you’ve beaten them down so badly, and you’ve betrayed them so horribly that their going to think, “ya know, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, you’re not going to fool me a third time. I’m not that cheap of a date.” Respect has to go both ways. We respect you when you respect us and this is an act of utter disrespect.