GOP leader: House to vote on debt limit increase

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm •  Published: January 18, 2013

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. But top lawmakers like Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have argued that the idea violates a provision of the Constitution that says Congress can't change its pay until an election has passed.

At the same time, while Democrats like Pelosi and allies like Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland protest the idea of a short-term debt increase in the government's $16.4 trillion debt cap, they orchestrated comparable short-term debt relief when they controlled Congress in 2009.

GOP leaders, meanwhile, 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.