Though the House voted convincingly to end the spending fight that had brought the government to the brink of a shutdown, Democrats had to ride to the rescue to provide the winning margin as dozens of Republicans turned thumbs down.
Fifty-nine Republicans — nearly a quarter of the new majority — rejected the measure personally negotiated by Mr. Boehner and endorsed by his top lieutenants, Representatives Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, and Kevin McCarthy of California, the party whip. Another lawmaker said he would have opposed the measure but missed the vote. Twenty-seven of the 59 who bucked the leadership were freshmen.
The outcome amounted to a warning shot to the leadership from its right flank that conservatives are serious when they say they will not support measures that do not meet their fiscal ideals, a position that is not going to make Mr. Boehner’s life any easier as he heads into new showdowns over raising the federal debt limit and deficit reduction. It could also have long-term implications for the speaker politically if he continues to face such internal division.
“I think my leadership needs to probably sit down and have a come-to-Jesus with themselves,” said Representative Allen B. West, a freshman Republican from Florida who derided the budget cuts as a “raindrop in an ocean.”
Many other Republicans praised Mr. Boehner for wringing $38 billion in cuts out of recalcitrant Democrats and said the more important result was not the specific amount of savings, but that Congress was now cutting rather than padding spending bills. One leading opponent of the measure said he would not fault Mr. Boehner, who found himself at the bargaining table across from both Senate Democrats and President Obama.
“I can’t criticize a basketball player who faces two-on-one all night,” said Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. “John Boehner fought hard, drove a hard bargain, but liberals in the Senate and this administration resisted almost every effort to pass meaningful budget cuts.”
Even Mr. Boehner himself acknowledged that the measure was not all he would have liked, but was the best he could get given that Democrats control the Senate and the White House.
“This bill is not perfect,” said Mr. Boehner, who portrayed the budget plan as only the beginning of the Republican push to cut spending. “It is no cause for celebration. It is just one step.”
Mr. Boehner sought to turn the focus on the budget the House is to vote on Friday, a plan that its sponsors say cuts almost $6 trillion in spending over the next decade and represents his party’s signature statement on deficit reduction.
Speaking privately in order to be candid, even harsh critics of Mr. Boehner said that his position was in no immediate jeopardy. But they said that his inability to unify the rank and file was a significant issue, and that some lawmakers had their confidence in him shaken when they saw analyses that showed the immediate impact of the cuts was modest this year though an estimated $315 billion would be saved over 10 years.
The defection of the 59 Republicans was even more striking given the effort the speaker and other leaders made in the final hours to limit Republican opposition by bringing in budget experts to explain how the cuts would take effect. Mr. Boehner himself gave a lesson in budget terminology on the House floor as the debate opened.
“The budget process is very complicated and there was lots of spin from Washington Democrats,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. “But the speaker secured the largest spending cut possible and it clears the decks for the big battle over Paul Ryan’s budget,” he added, referring to the Budget Committee chairman’s plan.
The number of Republicans opposing the measure was slightly higher than the 54 who opposed an earlier stopgap measure. After that vote, the leadership team took steps to limit such division on the final vote — a goal they failed to meet.
While the House leadership team backed the measure, Mr. Boehner was clearly the Republican face of the plan and had the most riding on the outcome. In contrast, Mr. Cantor, the majority leader, had noted that he was not a party to the negotiations, a posture some Republicans took to mean he was uneasy about being aligned with a deal that drew so much internal opposition.
Interpretations differed on whether the party divide would help or hinder Mr. Boehner in coming negotiations. Some Republicans suggested it would empower him to drive a harder bargain in order to unify Republicans; others suggested he was now weakened since Democrats know he will ultimately need their help to advance budget legislation that can clear the Senate and be signed into law.
In any event, Mr. Boehner finds himself in one of the toughest positions in Washington, caught between his large conservative bloc and the need to deal with Democrats to do the work of the government while protecting his leadership position.
Allies acknowledged that it is a daunting task.
“You can never do enough,” said Representative Tom Latham, an Iowa Republican who is a close friend, “and you always do too much.”