'No Budget, No Pay' advances in the House, passage expected soon

Those numbers are expected to change in the final vote on the bill. Several Republicans are expected to oppose the bill because it suspends the debt ceiling until mid-May, but does not cut spending. GOP leaders are hoping to use the time until May to work on a larger deal to cut spending and extend the debt ceiling for a longer period of time.

In addition, several Democrats are expected to support the bill — while they see it as imperfect, many see it as a way to avoid a freeze on near-term government borrowing.

ADVERTISEMENT
During debate on the rule, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) cast the bill as a way to start a three-month process of negotiating a solution to the debt ceiling and the budget deficit. He also gave Republicans credit for pushing for this discussion, and said Democrats do not appear interested in reducing the deficit at all.

"We've already exceeded the $16 trillion in debt, and Republicans find this debt level absolutely unacceptable, and that is why we are here today," he said. "By contrast, President Obama seems to be perfectly comfortable with the idea of reaching $23 trillion, which is where we'll be at the end of his second term if we continue his policies in that direction."

Sessions also made it clear that Republicans are not looking to bring the government to the brink of a debt default, something Democrats have charged. He said avoiding a default and finding ways to shrink the deficit can both be achieved.

"We will not risk the full faith and credit of the United States," Sessions said. "But neither will we compromise a long-term extension of this debt ceiling without slashing wasteful federal spending, enacting meaningful entitlement reform and ending the era of trillion dollar deficits."

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) accused Republicans nonetheless of brinkmanship, and said anything other than a clean increase in the debt ceiling could hurt economic growth.

"What we are doing today, thanks to Republican leadership, is to bring a short-term extension of the debt ceiling to the floor, which means that they have decided once again to play partisan politics with the debt ceiling," he said. "This is a bad idea. This is not the way a mature governing body ought to behave."

McGovern also criticized the bill as a "gimmick" because of its language that would withhold House or Senate pay if the House or Senate fails to pass a budget by April 15. That language gives the bill its title, and Republicans say the threat of withholding pay is a needed step to force the Senate to pass a budget, something that has not happened in nearly four years.

But McGovern said the bill, H.R. 325, does not actually require the two bodies to reconcile their two budgets, which means it could waste three months of time for nothing.

"It doesn't require a finished product," he said. "It does not require that we actually have something that amounts to a deal that goes to the president's desk."

McGovern also pointed out that the the bill would only withhold pay from members, but pay them back later. The language was written that way to ensure consistency with the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which prevents Congress from immediately altering its own pay — changes made take effect only in the next Congress.

While some have questioned the constitutionality of this piece of the bill, Sessions defended it, and said the 27th Amendment was meant to ensure Congress does not immediately raise its pay.

"This bill upholds both the letter and the spirit of the 27th Amendment," he said.

With passage of the rule, the House was expected to take up an hour of debate on the bill itself, and vote on it sometime after noon today.