Thursday evening the U.S. Capitol Building was engulfed in a wave of summertime heat outside and political heat inside.
First scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, a vote on House Speaker John Boehner’s Budget Control Act was delayed long into the night. At the point it was canceled, a Hill source told The Daily Caller that Boehner was two votes short of securing passage.
Shortly after 10:30, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy informed reporters the vote was being delayed until Friday. At 11 p.m., an amended version of the bill went back to the Rules Committee so it could implement a “Same Day Rule” in order to take up the bill without delay on Friday.
But in the preceding hours, things were tense as Boehner and McCarthy tried desperately to change the whip count in their favor, while House members diligently debated measures on the floor on name changes for post offices.
At one point, most, if not all, of the South Carolina delegation was huddled inside the whip’s office. Reps. Tim Scott, Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy and Mick Mulvaney were definitely inside.
The entire Republican delegation of the Palmetto State had publicly said that it would vote against the Speaker’s bill. When Scott walked out, he said adamantly that he was still “definitely a no.”
Mulvaney and Duncan left the Whip’s office and headed straight for the nearby chapel, where they actually bowed and prayed for the leadership.
For hours, the press corps also camped out in front of the leaders’ offices, often going on nothing more than nuanced rumors that seemed to change every half-hour. Inside, members negotiated, arm-twisted and dined on pizza. (RELATED: Ron Paul calls on supporters to lobby GOP leadership for no compromise)
Members walking by were either mum or simply had no idea what the night’s outcome would be. At one point, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett simply told reporters that the vote was a choice between a “bad” bill and a “really bad bill.”
“What would you do?” he asked reporters.
For many Republican House members, it was the conundrum of the night and anticipation gave way to frustration as a good chunk of the Republican caucus held its ground.
Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida put it bluntly to reporters: “The only way that we are going to get our spending under control, whether it’s this bill or any other bill — this Congress or any other Congress — is going to be a balanced budget amendment. Period.”
“That’s the discussion that’s probably continuing on back there,” Ross added, indicating Boehner’s office.
Shortly before 8:30 p.m., McCarthy rushed passed reporters into Boehner’s office, refusing to answer questions except to say that he did not know when a vote would be held. (RELATED: Palin pens ambiguous note to GOP freshmen)
“A lot of folks just want to have a 100-percent perfect plan,” Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida told TheDC. “And that’s just not what you’re going to get.”
West said his support for Boehner’s plan comes from the fact that it contains no “clean” debt limit increase and no tax increases. His compromise, he said, is that he’s “not warmed over to this joint Congressional Committee.”
When asked what time a vote could be expected, the Florida freshman shrugged his shoulders. “I was told 7:30, 8, 8:30,” he said.
Boehner’s plan would cut spending by $917 billion over ten years. Many House Republicans, however, believe the proposal didn’t go far enough, and that it strayed too far from the Cut, Cap, Balance Act. At a press conference earlier in the day, the Speaker put on an optimistic face and said, “We’re going to pass a very responsible answer to this crisis.”
By midday Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed to bring the bill to a vote immediately after it passed the House. Essentially, that meant Senators were on call all night, too.
Late into the evening, TheDC found a group of four Republican Senators huddled in the hallway, including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
“Do we need to wait around or can we go home?” one of them wondered aloud.
Thursday’s late-night collapse means Congress has only five more days to pass legislation to raise the debt limit before the August 2 deadline. A House Republican Conference meeting is scheduled for 10 Friday morning.
Watch can we come to a deal: