House Speaker John A. Boehner listens during a news conference on Capitol… (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )
House leaders have delayed a scheduled vote on the debt ceiling plan offered by House Speaker John A. Boehner, a possible acknowledgement that Republicans lacked the votes to ensure passage.
The postponement was announced just minutes before the planned 6 p.m. vote. The House instead moved to consider a far less controversial measure -- to rename a post office in Peoria, Ill.
Republicans had been working throughout the day Thursday to lock down support for their plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling, even as Senate Democrats vowed to swiftly kill it if passed.
"We're not there yet; we don't have the votes yet. But today is the day," Boehner had told members at a morning meeting, according to a GOP source who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private conversation.
Aides to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor insisted that a vote could still take place Thursday. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid posted on Twitter that the body was "ready to defeat the Boehner plan whenever House Republicans can get their act together."
Lawmakers are working to meet the Aug. 2 deadline for extending the nation's borrowing capacity, or administration officials warn of a chain reaction of potentially disastrous economic consequences.
Boehner's bill would raise the debt limit in two stages -- one that could cover borrowing through the end of the year and another to cover 2012. The first increase is paired with $915 billion in spending cuts over 10 years. The second would be contingent on passage of a larger deficit-reduction package crafted by a new congressional committee.
Rather than promising passage of a balanced-budget amendment -- a top priority for conservatives -- the bill only ensures a vote in both chambers. Such a vote would be largely symbolic. The GOP-preferred version of the amendment is widely rejected by Democrats and would fall well short of the two-thirds vote needed to pass.