WASHINGTON — The House approved a Republican plan Wednesday to delay a fight over raising the debt ceiling, averting for now another crisis over the nation's borrowing authority.
A bill to suspend — rather than raise — the debt limit until May 18 was approved 285 to 144. Oklahoma's all-Republican delegation split on the measure, with the three veterans voting for it and the two freshmen opposing it.
Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, voted for the bill, calling it “a baby step” toward a plan to reduce federal spending and rein in the growth of entitlements. Republicans will still insist on matching dollar-for-dollar any increase in the debt ceiling with spending cuts, he said.
The bill passed Wednesday requires the House and Senate to approve a budget by April 15 or lawmakers' pay will be withheld. The Senate has not passed a budget for nearly four years, but the Democratic budget chief has pledged to end that streak in 2013.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would schedule a vote soon on the House bill, which is backed by the White House.
“By passing this bill, Republicans are joining Democrats to say we will not hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, and we will pay our bills,” Reid said.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, who voted for the House bill on Wednesday, said it was “disgraceful” that Senate Democrats hadn't produced a budget blueprint in years.
The House bill, he said, “sets a schedule for an orderly budgeting process and prevents a repeat of the last-minute fiscal negotiations that harm the economy and jeopardize our credit rating.”