House leaders called off a vote on Speaker John Boehner's plan to cut federal spending and raise the nation's debt limit late Thursday, after a last-ditch lobbying effort failed to line up the Republican votes needed to ensure passage.
Party leaders held out hope that further changes could attract wavering conservatives. The House Rules Committee was set to meet at 11 p.m. Eastern time to amend the measure, striking some or all of $17 billion in supplemental funds for Pell Grants, a move that would add to the plan's $915 billion in deficit savings.
A meeting of the full House Republican conference is planned for Friday morning.
With just days remaining before the federal government runs out of money to pay its bills, the delayed vote left Boehner weakened, and strengthened the hand of Democratic congressional leaders in final efforts to forge a compromise to avert a threatened economic crisis.
The setback marked the second time this week that conservative opposition had forced Boehner to postpone a vote on his debt ceiling proposal, and it dramatically illustrated the power of the "tea party" conservatives to upend the GOP establishment.
The late-night decision came after hours of frantic but so-far unsuccessful arm twisting as House leaders ushered wavering members into leadership offices for meetings with the speaker, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the majority whip.
Lisa Mascaro and Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.