Drama in the House

At about 5:23 p.m. eastern, the House Republican leadership sent out this notice:

Members are advised that the House GOP Leadership has postponed the votes on the motion to recommit and final passage of S. 627 – Speaker Boehner’s Short Term Default Act (amending the Faster FOIA Act of 2011). Following general debate on S. 627, the House will consider the eight bills listed for consideration under suspension of the Rules.

To translate this into English, Speaker Boehner’s budget proposal doesn’t have the votes. In the hopes of twisting a few arms, the House proceeded to take up a few measures related to — I kid you not — naming post offices. (Yes, five days before an economic catastrophe of Republicans’ making, they’re reduced to naming post offices on the House floor.)

Nearly two hours later, GOP leaders have said they still expect to hold a vote “tonight,” though that’s a time frame that could conceivably go into the morning. Democratic leaders also anticipate a vote this evening, and have told members not to leave Capitol Hill.

By most accounts, Boehner is a vote or two shy of what he needs to pass a bill … which everyone knows will then be promptly killed by the Senate. The Speaker’s argument to his caucus is that passage of his budget plan will give him greater leverage in the final round of talks, after this bill dies, but as it turns out, that’s not much of a rallying cry for a right-wing caucus that doesn’t like Boehner’s bill much anyway.

At this point, it’s also worth noting that Boehner’s hold on the Speaker’s gavel is weakening, and failure tonight, if there’s a vote, would be a stunning rebuke of his leadership by dozens of members of his own caucus.

Harry Reid’s communications director, meanwhile, explained about an hour ago, “The Senate stands ready to defeat the Boehner plan whenever House Republicans can get their act together.”

When that might be, no one knows.

Update: Just as an aside, in “the good ol’ days,” right about now, the GOP leadership would simply start buying off stubborn members with some pork projects. (“Bite the bullet on this one and your district gets a nice, shiny new bridge.”) The party’s anti-earmark philosophy won’t allow this option anymore.

Second Update: At about 7:45 p.m., Harry Reid announced that the Senate would be in recess, at least until 9 p.m. A reliable source tells me several pizza boxes were delivered to the Republican Whip’s office, which suggests the GOP leadership doesn’t expect an imminent vote, either.

Third Update: At about 8:10 p.m., Eric Cantor’s spokesperson said the vote will occur “before tomorrow.”