Dem bill would withhold lawmakers’ pay until debt limit raised

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Boxer sponsored a similar measure with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) that passed the Senate in March 2011 by unanimous consent but was never taken up in the House.

That bill simply canceled lawmakers’ pay — but the language appeared to violate the Constitution, which says a sitting Congress cannot alter its own pay during an ongoing session.

The nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling will need to be raised this fall.

Republicans want to use debt-limit talks to force Democrats to accept deeper budget cuts.

The House GOP has yet to spell out its exact demands in exchange for raising the nation’s borrowing limit, but may include calls for more near-term cuts, entitlement reforms, jobs measures including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or a timeline for tax reform.

Democrats though say that negotiating over the debt ceiling leaves markets uncertain and could damage the economy.

Boxer said the U.S. should pay its debts for spending already authorized by Congress.

“It’s a deadbeat agenda,” she said, arguing that the 2011 debt ceiling standoff cost the U.S. $18.9 billion.

“They are losers. Their strategy is a losing strategy and they are doing it all over again,” Boxer said. “Earth to John Boehner: The deficit has already been cut in half.”

“President Obama is clear he is not going to allow hostage taking over the debt ceiling,” Boxer said, adding that secret meetings between the White House and Senate Republicans to lay the groundwork for budget talks give her no concern.

“I’m supportive of off-the-record conversations, it is how you get things done,” she said. “The bottom line is we shouldn’t be holding the debt ceiling hostage.”

Boxer and McDermott said they do not believe their bill would lead to a slippery slope where lawmakers tie other issues to pay in an effort to force members to vote on contentious legislation.

“It is a basic responsibility,” Boxer said of the raising the debt ceiling. “This isn’t going to become a precedent.”

The bill does not yet have additional co-sponsors and there is no timeline yet for trying to bring it up for a vote.