House passes Budget Control Act after dramatic visit from Rep. Gabby Giffords

Amanda Carey Contributor
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The House of Representatives passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 on Monday evening. The bill had bipartisan support, drawing 174 Republican and 95 Democratic “yes” votes. The final count was 269–161.

Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona made a dramatic visit to the floor of the House to cast her vote, entering to thunderous applause. Many of her colleagues visibly teared up as Giffords cast her “yes” vote. After the bill passed, she walked off the floor looking frail, but all smiles, with her husband Mark Kelly and Vice President Joe Biden.

When asked by The Daily Caller how he felt about the vote, Biden said “Oh, I feel great about the vote!”

But Rep. Michele Bachmann told TheDC when she left the floor, “Well, I was sorry that it passed.”

What some might call a “historic vote” occurred with much hand-holding and nose-holding as members of both parties protested something throughout the day that they knew they would ultimately support.

Some hawkish Republicans started the day uneasy about the cuts to defense spending. But after a personal visit with Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon voted in favor of the bill.

Other Republicans, mostly those active in the Cut, Cap and Balance fight, started off aligned against the bill simply because it didn’t cut as much as they would like. Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina, for example, voted “no.”

The GOP leadership’s message, however, was that the debt limit deal is a significant step in the right direction. Boehner hammered at that message during his afternoon press conference. On his way off the floor during the vote, he said he felt “fine, fine.”

At the end of the day, those who simply wanted to avoid default and pass a debt limit increase outnumbered those uneasy enough to vote “no.”

The bill cuts about $2.4 trillion over the next decade in a two-step process. In the first phase, Congress would raise the debt limit by $900 billion while cutting $917 billion.  The increase would last for about six months. Then, a newly-created Joint Committee would be tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in cuts in order for President Obama to be authorized to request another $1.5 trillion increase.

If the cuts aren’t made, the debt ceiling automatically be raised $1.2 trillion, but it would trigger a process called sequestration – mandatory across-the-board cuts.

The Senate is expected to vote on the package by noon on Tuesday.