House members from Western North Carolina were unified in voting against a measure to extend the government’s borrowing limit Tuesday, which was nevertheless approved and signaled a possible end to an era marked by brinkmanship in Congress surrounding the debt ceiling.
U.S. Reps. Mark Meadows, Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx, all Republicans, cast no votes on the bill, described as a “clean” extension of the debt limit. Only 28 Republicans supported the measure, including House Speaker John Boehner and several members of the GOP leadership.
None of WNC’s House representatives issued statements on their votes.
Passage of the measure was seen as a blow to the Speaker, who sided with Democrats as 199 members of his own party voted in opposition to a bill with his backing. In previous battles, both Boehner and Republicans had demanded cuts as high as $1 trillion in exchange for an extension.
As a result of Tuesday’s vote, no additional policy provisions or attachments are included to a debt limit increase for the first time since 2009. Recent United States Treasury figures measure the national debt at more than $17.2 trillion.
The shift in tactics comes on the heels of three major pieces of legislation approved by Congress in recent months—a budget deal, an appropriations bill, as well as last week’s approval of a $1 trillion farm bill. For many, the fact that Boehner allowed a “clean” extension to be brought up for a final vote was seen as an effort to avoid controversies mirroring last year’s government shutdown, allowing Republicans to put focus on issues regarding the Affordable Care Act before elections.
The bill, which is expected to be approved in the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama, extends the ceiling until March of 2015, placing any future wrangling over the issue well-beyond November.
Earlier in the week, Boehner had sought to gain Republican support for the measure by attaching a provision to restore reductions to military pensions. Under a recent budget agreement, approximately $7 billion had been slated to be cut from cost-of-living increases for military retirees under 62.
But the concession wasn’t enough to rally the base, which held a separate vote on the issue later Tuesday evening. Meadows, McHenry and Foxx didn’t hesitate to support that bill, which was approved in a 326-90 vote.
Following the roll call, Meadows issued a statement praising the change.
“As the representative for the district with the largest percentage of retired military personnel in North Carolina, I could not support a measure that forced these heroes to bear the burden or our nation’s irresponsible spending,” Meadows said. “Today, the House took a much-needed bipartisan vote to restore COLA payments to our veterans.”
The Senate is expected to debate a similar bill geared at restoring benefits soon. North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, is a leading sponsor of the bill.
“We cannot seek to balance our budget on the backs of the men and women who have answered the call of duty,” Hagan said, in a statement.