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GOP official: House to vote to lift debt limit

Sunday, January 20, 2013

(Photo)
FILE - This Jan. 1, 2013 file photo shows House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walkig past reporters after a closed-door meeting meeting of House Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington. The GOP-controlled House will vote next week to permit the government to borrow more money to meet its obligations, a move aimed at heading off a market-rattling confrontation with President Barack Obama over the so-called debt limit. Full details aren't settled yet, but the measure would give the government about three more months of borrowing authority beyond a deadline expected to hit as early as mid-February, a Republican official said Friday.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-controlled House will vote next week to permit the government to borrow more money to meet its obligations, a move aimed at heading off a market-rattling confrontation with President Barack Obama over the so-called debt limit.

Full details aren't settled yet, but the measure would give the government about three more months of borrowing authority beyond a deadline expected to hit as early as mid-February, No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia said Friday.

The legislation wouldn't require immediate spending cuts as earlier promised by GOP leaders like Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Instead, it's aimed at forcing the Democratic-controlled Senate to join the House in debating the federal budget. It would try to do so by conditioning pay for members of Congress on passing budget measures through the House and Senate.

"We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government's spending problem," Boehner told GOP lawmakers at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va. "The principle is simple: `no budget, no pay."'

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, might not vote on the legislation, depending when it's brought to the floor. She's resigning Tuesday. She expressed skepticism about whether the House Republican leadership's plan will work.

"The way that you tackle a problem is you put a strategy in place and you try to put forward some concrete ideas to achieve goals -- ideas that both parties can agree to," Emerson said. "I just don't know that I buy into this whole concept of temporarily lifting the debt ceiling for three months, and then if we don't make some kind of very straightforward decisions on cutting spending, then we won't get paid. But here's the deal -- the Senate has not passed a budget in four years. So I don't know how you get their attention. And I don't think this tactic will necessarily get their attention."

But the idea ran into opposition from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and other Democrats who called it a gimmick because it would set up another potential confrontation in just a few months. Votes from Democrats may be needed to help pass the measure if GOP conservatives opposed to any increase in the debt limit withhold their support.

"This proposal does not relieve the uncertainty faced by small businesses, the markets and the middle class," said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill. "This is a gimmick unworthy of the challenges we face and the national debate we should be having. The message from the American people is clear: no games, no default."

The Senate hasn't passed a budget since 2009, which has drawn lots of criticism from Republicans but protected Democrats controlling the chamber from politically difficult votes. The GOP measure would cut off or delay paychecks for lawmakers in either House or Senate if their chamber had not passed a budget resolution by April 15, but it would not require the two sides to reconcile their differences to keep receiving pay.

Obama and fellow Democrats welcomed the developments on the debt limit.

"We are 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," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement. "Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt-limit increase without further delay."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also welcomed the development, but his office appeared to suggest Senate Democrats would not accept it because of the measure on congressional pay.

"It is reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson. "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."

In Washington-speak, a "clean" debt limit increase means a stand-alone measure without additional measures -- like the "no budget, no pay" idea -- attached. Jentleson said Reid and his fellow Senate Democrats have yet to decide how they'll respond to the measure.

The no budget, no pay idea is backed No Labels, a group started about two years ago by both Democrats and Republicans in hopes of easing the partisanship and gridlock that has engulfed Washington. Sponsors in Congress include Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a similar idea in 2011 when unanimously adopting a measure to deny pay to members of Congress and the president if the government shuts down for lack of an agency funding bill.

And in 2009, the Democratic-controlled Congress passed a short-term measure increasing the debt limit.

GOP leaders have been grappling with how to gain leverage in their battles with Obama over the budget. Boehner successfully won about $2 trillion in spending cuts as a condition of increasing the government's borrowing cap in 2011.

Obama, however, was dealt a stronger hand by his re-election in November and successfully pressed through a 10-year, $600 billion increase on upper-bracket tax payers earlier this month.

Other choke points remain, including sharp, across-the-board spending cuts that would start to strike the Pentagon and domestic programs alike on March 1 and the possibility of a partial government shutdown with the expiration of a temporary budget measure on March 27.

Failing to meet those deadlines would have far less serious consequences than defaulting on U.S. obligations like payments to bondholders, Social Security recipients and myriad other commitments when the government confronts a cash crisis and can no longer borrow to make payments. That could cause a meltdown in financial markets and would inflame voters already disgusted with Congress.

Under Congress' arcane budget procedures, a congressional budget resolution is a nonbinding measure that tries to set parameters for future legislation setting agency budgets and curbing federal benefit programs like Medicare.

Boehner has previously invoked a promise that any increase in the government's borrowing cap would be matched, dollar for dollar, by spending cuts or "reforms" that could include curbs on the long-term growth in retirement programs such as Medicare. Friday's announcement did not repeat that specific promise.

"Before there is any long-term debt limit increase, a budget should be passed that cuts spending," Boehner said. "The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget for four years. That is a shameful run that needs to end, this year."

The measure picked up support from key GOP conservatives, including the current and former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee, a powerful group inside the House GOP.

"In order to allow time for the Senate to act, next week's bill will extend the debt limit for three months," the Study Committee said Friday in a statement. "This is a necessary first step as we work to halt the decline of America and puts the focus where it belongs: on the Senate who has failed to do their jobs to pass a budget for more than three years." The statement was issued by RSC Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La., and former chairmen, Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Tom Price, R-Ga., and Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.

Obama's budget is due early next month but is expected to be released several weeks later.


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Let's stop this every ninety day circus we all go through, congress and white house do your job you guys come to the table and let's hammer out these differences for the sake of our country and not the next election. People are fed up with this daily battling over who can get on camera first just do your job that is all the people are asking you to do.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 1:23 PM

Cut the spending so that there is money to pay the interest on debts you guys already incurred.

-- Posted by Cogito on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 1:59 PM

'Those guys' didn't incur the debt. 'We' did. We incurred it for tax cuts and for two wars.

Do you want to cut spending for those things? Do you want to cut spending on oil subsidies? Or were you thinking of the little things like food stamps?

-- Posted by Pythagoras on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 2:09 PM

conserve_our_future let's not for get the major housing crash as well which played a big role in all of this mess and actually 40 years of over all accumilated debt that came due on September 15, 2008.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 2:30 PM

I certainly agree the housing crash was a major cause of the economic crash which, in turn, lowered revenue dramatically and increased borrowing/debt.

However, the two biggest drivers of the debt were the big tax cuts and two wars which were 'off budget' that, together, turned the budget surplus of 1999 into today's deficits.

-- Posted by Pythagoras on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 3:12 PM

You cannot finance two wars on a credit card that has now lasted nearly eleven years and have three major tax breaks at the same time which created very few jobs. Trickle down economics has never worked, nothing ever trickles down to the middle class, the men and women who make it happen.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Fri, Jan 18, 2013, at 5:00 PM


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