WASHINGTON — Ending three years of brinkmanship in which the threat of a devastating default on the nation’s debt was used to wring conservative concessions from President Obama, the House on Tuesday voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit until March 2015, without any conditions.
The vote — 221 to 201 — relied almost entirely on Democrats in the Republican-controlled House to carry the measure and represented the first debt ceiling increase since 2009 that was not attached to other legislation. Only 28 Republicans voted yes, and only two Democrats voted no.
Simply by holding the vote, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio effectively ended a three-year Tea Party-inspired era of budget showdowns that had raised the threat of default and government shutdowns, rattled economic confidence and brought serious scrutiny from other nations questioning Washington’s ability to govern. In the process, though, Mr. Boehner also set off a series of reprisals from fellow Republican congressmen and outside groups that showcased the party’s deep internal divisions
“He gave the president exactly what he wanted, which is exactly what the Republican Party said we did not want,” said a Republican representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who last year unsuccessfully tried to rally enough support to derail Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker. “It’s going to really demoralize the base.”
The vote was a victory for President Obama, Democrats and those Senate Republicans who have argued that spending money for previously incurred obligations was essential for the financial standing of the federal government. “Tonight’s vote is a positive step in moving away from the political brinkmanship that’s a needless drag on our economy,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
But outside Republican groups were sharply critical of the speaker. Both the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America, for example, had put out a “key vote” alert urging members to vote against the measure.
“A clean debt ceiling is a complete capitulation on the speaker’s part and demonstrates that he has lost the ability to lead the House of Representatives, let alone his own party,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. “It is time for him to go.”
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, commended the speaker and promised to pass the bill as soon as possible. “We’re happy to see the House is legislating the way they should have legislated for a long time,” he said.
But Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said Tuesday in a statement that he planned to object to any attempt to raise the debt ceiling with a minimum of 51 votes, instead of requiring 60 votes — meaning at least five Republicans would have to vote with the full Democratic caucus — to get to final passage.
“If Republicans stand together, we can demand meaningful spending restraint to help pull our nation back from the fiscal and economic cliff,” Mr. Cruz said.
Mr. Boehner stunned House Republicans on Tuesday morning when he dropped a package that would have tied the debt ceiling increase to a repeal of cuts to military retirement pensions that had been approved in December and announced he would put a “clean” debt ceiling increase up for a vote.
Enough Republicans had balked at that package when it was presented Monday night to convince the speaker he had no choice but to turn to the Democratic minority.
For Mr. Boehner it was a potentially momentous decision. Conservative activists, including the Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, L. Brent Bozell’s ForAmerica and commentators on the website RedState.com are all circulating petitions to end Mr. Boehner’s speakership.
And it was Mr. Boehner who raised such high expectations around the debt limit. In 2011, he established what has become known as the “Boehner Rule”: any debt ceiling increase was supposed to be offset by an equivalent spending cut.
“This is a lost opportunity,” the speaker conceded. “We could have sat down and worked together in a bipartisan manner to find cuts and reforms that are greater than increasing the debt limit. I am disappointed, to say the least.”
The ramifications for Mr. Boehner are unclear. The speaker’s supporters commended him for shepherding through an increase in the government’s borrowing authority quickly and with as little damage as could be expected for his party, for the economy and the country. They said President Obama left leaders no choice once he dug in and refused to negotiate a deficit reduction deal attached to a debt-ceiling increase.
For those few Republicans who supported the speaker, however, there were few good lessons to draw from the vote. “I am disappointed we are not engaged in a more serious debate today,” said Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the only Republican who spoke in favor of the debt limit bill. “But as disappointed as I am, I cannot in good conscience let the Democrats’ refusal to engage lead to a default” on the nation’s debt.
In a closed-door session Monday night, Representative Andy Harris, Republican of Maryland, accused the speaker of being in the pockets of the insurance industry, a charge that stirred outrage among many of his colleagues. Representative Tom Cotton, who is seeking a Senate seat in Arkansas, told Republican leaders they had put him into an impossible political position with his state’s conservative voters. He would lose support if he voted for a debt ceiling increase, but he would also lose support if he voted against the military pension restoration then attached to the debt bill.
The 28 Republicans who supported the bill were a coalition cobbled together from Republican leadership, moderates, and retiring members. Notably, however, not all of the top Republican leadership team voted for the measure. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the No. 4 House Republican, and Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s 2012 vice-presidential nominee, both voted “no.”
That left allies of the speaker fuming that political considerations had left Republicans with no policy cover to accompany the debt ceiling increase.
Representative Ted Yoho, a freshman Republican from Florida who voted in his first days in office to depose Mr. Boehner, was in a forgiving mood. “With that many people and that many personalities in there, it’s hard to bring them all together on a common cause,” he said.
Most Republicans appeared content to move beyond the debt ceiling fight, focus on the 2014 campaign.
“Hopefully we can win the Senate, and we can have a completely different conversation,” said Representative James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican running fo