House GOP leaders to call for vote on debt ceiling

Herald Washington BureauJanuary 20, 2013 

WASHINGTON -- Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, hoping to avert another politically costly showdown with President Barack Obama over fiscal issues, plan a vote next week on increasing the debt ceiling enough to cover three months of additional borrowing to pay the government's bills.

The new Republican plan would come with strings attached. It also would halt pay for members of Congress unless a budget is approved by April 15. Most lawmakers earn $174,000 a year.

The Republican-controlled House routinely approves budget blueprints on largely party-line votes. The Democratic-controlled Senate hasn't approved a comprehensive federal budget plan in about four years.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., laid out the GOP plan as House Republicans wrapped up an issues retreat in Williamsburg, Va.

"Next week, we will authorize a three-month temporary debt-limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget," he said. "Furthermore, if the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay."

The new offer is a change by House Speaker John Boehner,R-Ohio, who'd wanted a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar of a debt increase.

Boehner said the new plan would lead to meaningful spending cuts. "We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government's spending problem," he told lawmakers at the retreat.

But what it largely would do is put off that debate for a while. The Obama administration has said the nation will be unable to pay its bills sometime between Feb. 15 and March 1 unless the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling is raised. The White House didn't dismiss the Republican initiative Friday, but it did offer a cool reaction.

Spokesman Jay Carney said the White House was "encouraged that there are signs that congressional Republicans may back off their insistence on holding our economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education and programs middle-class families depend on."

Obama has said repeatedly that he won't negotiate on the debt limit, and Carney reiterated the point.

"Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt-limit increase without further delay. And as he has said, the president remains committed to further reducing the deficit in a balanced way," he said.

In the Senate, Democrats made no commitments. But the office of Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered some hope.

"It is reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage. If the House can pass a clean debt ceiling increase to avoid default and allow the United States to meet its existing obligations, we will be happy to consider it," spokesman Adam Jentleson said.

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