Moving forward with their short-term debt ceiling strategy, House Republicans released legislation Monday that would suspend the U.S. borrowing limit through May 18 and put members pay at risk if a budget is not adopted.
Backing off their earlier plan to demand dollar-for-dollar spending cuts in return for a debt ceiling increase, Republicans are not including any spending reductions in the measure. They’ll consider the bill on the House floor Wednesday. House GOP leaders will now have to ensure they have the votes to pass the plan.
The House GOP proposal is an attempt to change the dynamics of the fiscal debate and shift the political onus to Senate Democrats, who haven’t adopted a budget plan in more than three years.
President Barack Obama has vowed not to negotiate over a debt ceiling increase, and the White House said last week it was “encouraged” by the GOP plan.
The bill would push the next debt ceiling date well beyond other looming fiscal deadlines — the sequester on March 1 and the end of the current continuing resolution on March 27.
Specifically, the proposal would throw out the debt cap until May 18, allowing the Treasury to borrow as much money as it needs to pay the nation’s bills. And on that deadline, when the debt cap is reinstated, it would be increased by the amount of spending that occurred before that day.
The language may serve as political cover for some lawmakers because it doesn’t specify an amount.
The bill, posted on the House Rules Committee website Monday, also includes language for suspending the pay of senators and representatives if their chamber has not adopted a budget resolution by April 15 — though they would eventually recoup their frozen salaries, even if they don’t pass a budget.
The bill would require congressional payroll administrators to send lawmakers’ paychecks to a holding account after mid-April should their own respective chambers fail to adopt a budget.
But members wouldn’t take a pay cut per se.
They would get their salaries back in full upon the adoption of a budget, or on the last day of the 113th Congress, which is early 2015.
The pay freeze, rather than a pay cut, aligns the bill with the 27th Amendment, which requires all member pay increases or decreases to be postponed until the following Congress.
The amendment is meant to safeguard against the possibility that members could put more cash in their own pockets in between elections, but it also protects lawmakers who earn less and whose families could see economic hardship should their salaries be taken away suddenly.
Still, the provision — should it be enacted and lawmakers’ salaries frozen for a time — will no doubt affect members who depend on their paychecks more than the wealthiest lawmakers, such as Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).