Minnesota Republicans unite to oppose House debt ceiling increase

WASHINGTON -- All three of Minnesota's Republicans in the U.S. House voted Tuesday against legislation put forward by Speaker John Boehner to temporarily suspend the federal government's borrowing limit until March 2015.

The bill passed 221-201 with the support of almost every Democrat in the chamber, including the five who represent Minnesota, and just 28 Republicans.

The hastily-scheduled vote marks the end of a GOP effort to extract policy concessions from the Obama Administration in exchange for what was once historically a routine vote for Congress. A similar attempt last October also failed, though Republicans were able to negotiate significant spending cuts in August 2011 using the debt ceiling as leverage.

Had the borrowing limit not been raised by Feb. 27, the Treasury Department warned that the federal government was in danger of defaulting on its obligations.

The vote disappointed conservatives, who had hoped at a minimum to demand the repeal of provisions of the Affordable Care Act as a precondition for raising the limit.

"This isn't the vote we wanted to see. If there was going to be a raising of the debt ceiling, we wanted to see something significant happen," said 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican, who said rank and file Republicans would have backed a harder line.

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"A decision was made by leadership," added Bachmann, who has never voted for a debt ceiling increase that passed.

Notably, 2nd District Rep. John Kline, a close ally of Boehner's, voted against the measure. In the past, Kline has been one of a small number of Republicans willing to vote for debt ceiling increases.

In a statement, Kline said he opposed the bill because it contained no measure to rein in spending.

"Runaway federal spending, deficits, and debt are barriers to our economic recovery, and the exponential growth of the federal deficit threatens the future of our children and grandchildren," said Kline.

A report last week from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows the gap between what the government takes in and spends has declined rapidly since 2009 and is projected to reach its lowest level in a decade, 2.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product, by 2015.

Some Democrats said the vote, which was carried out with less drama than past increases, suggested Congress was slowly returning to a less dysfunctional state.

"We helped pass the budget, we helped pass the farm bill, we'll help pass this, and look at what's happening. It's good stuff that comes out of that attitude," said 1st District U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

Still, Walz said it's unlikely any more major legislation such as a tax overhaul or immigration reform will pass before midterm elections in November, a full nine months from now.