House Republicans prepare contingency plan for debt hike

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Republicans on Friday that the House would soon pass legislation that prioritizes federal payments in the event the U.S. hits the debt ceiling later this year.

Cantor outlined the plan in a memo to the GOP that lists other leadership priorities for the spring, including cybersecurity legislation, a bill to keep a pre-existing condition insurance pool open and a measure funding autism research.

His memo said Republicans would pursue these goals so Congress can help in "creating the conditions for economic growth and job creation, upholding American values, and supporting American families."

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On the debt ceiling, Cantor said the House will consider the Full Faith and Credit Act, H.R. 807. This bill, from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), would require the government to prioritize interest payments on government debt if the debt ceiling is hit. "I expect the House to consider legislation in this area in the near future," he wrote.

The government has the potential to bump up against the ceiling in May. Earlier this year, Congress passed the No Budget, No Pay Act, which suspended the debt ceiling limit through May 18.

On May 19, the debt ceiling will be equal to the level of debt accumulated by that date, which means Congress will be under pressure to act before then to increase the ceiling again.

But House Republicans have already said they would be looking for a deal to cut a dollar of spending for every dollar increase in the debt ceiling. That sets up a fight with Democrats, who will likely push for a clean extension that does not require spending cuts.

Regarding cybersecurity, Cantor said the GOP chairmen of House committees on Intelligence, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, Homeland Security and Science, Space, and Technology are working on legislation to help protect U.S. companies from cyberattacks.

Cantor said he anticipates an "aggressive push" to fight cyberattacks "throughout the spring and summer."

"Upwards of $300 billion worth of intellectual property is stolen from American businesses each year by cybersecurity intrusions emanating from China and Russia," he wrote. GOP cyber bills include measures to reduce barriers to public-private information sharing on cyber threats, and to boost penalties for cyber crime.

Cantor said the House would also pass a bill to freeze the actions of the National Labor Relations Board  (NLRB), which is a reaction to President Obama's recess appointment of three NLRB members last year. An appeals court has said the appointments were not constitutional. The House is expected to vote on this bill next week.

Cantor listed legislation on the debt ceiling, cybersecurity and the NLRB as bills aimed at helping economic growth. He listed three others that the House would soon take up that are aimed at "supporting American families and upholding American values."

One of these is the Kids First Research Act, a bill from Reps. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) that would fund autism research. It would pay for this research by ending taxpayer funding of presidential campaigns and party conventions.

The second, which will come out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, would maintain the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. That $5 billion plan was created by ObamaCare to give people with pre-existing conditions access to health insurance through 2014, but the Obama administration said it would stop enrollment in the program.

Cantor said House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) s working on a bill to allow the program to take new enrollees through the end of the year by reducing other ObamaCare funds. One program that would be cut is the Prevention and Public Health fund, which Republicans have targeted before as a "slush fund" that should be reduced.

Finally, Cantor said the House would take up the Working Families Flexibility Act. This bill would give private-sector workers the option of using overtime hours for additional time away from work.

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