By The Hill Editors - 01/23/13 12:44 AM EST
House Republican leaders, badly wounded in the fiscal-cliff debate, have stopped their bleeding.
Their “No Budget, No Pay” bill will probably pass the House on Wednesday. Usually, it’s not that newsworthy when the majority in the House gets the votes to pass legislation.
But clearing this bill, which is linked to the raising of the debt ceiling, and which stipulates that lawmakers will not be paid unless they pass a budget through their chambers, will get a lot of attention, and it will focus more attention in a way that could favor Republicans.
President Obama cruised to a crushing victory, getting a lot of what he wanted in the bill that was signed into law earlier this month. He then doubled down by refusing to negotiate with congressional Republicans over lifting the ceiling on the federal debt. Congressional Democrats, not surprisingly, backed him.
This put the GOP in a box, because Republicans had previously said they would not lift the ceiling without spending cuts, and polls show that most people would blame them if the nation defaulted.
This gave Democrats every incentive to block a bill that included spending cuts. At the same time, however, dozens of conservatives have made it plain they would vote against a “clean” debt-ceiling bill — that is, one that did not come with spending cuts attached.
Realizing that these options A and B would damage the Republican brand and achieve none of the party’s fiscal goals, the House conference, at its recent retreat in Williamsburg, Va., came up with option C — No Budget, No Pay. Under this plan, the House will pass a clean bill to raise the ceiling, but only until May. But the legislation also stipulates that lawmakers will lose their pay if they don’t pass a budget in the intervening three months. Conservatives have warmed to the plan because it allows them to point out that Senate Democrats have failed to pass a budget resolution for nearly four years.
The White House on Tuesday did not oppose the House Republican bill. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week called the legislation a “gimmick,” but the criticism appears to have fallen by the wayside and her lieutenants are not expected to whip against it.
The No Budget, No Pay concept has also been endorsed by Blue Dog Democrats in the House, members of Senate Republican leadership and Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), a centrist Democrat. Senate Democrats on Tuesday also indicated their support.
The House Republican Conference is starting to deal more realistically — and thus more wisely — with the fact that the GOP lost the 2012 election and must adjustment its expectations and modus operandi.
While Boehner and his rank and file have escaped this predicament, another one awaits in a few months. The No Budget, No Pay bill only increases the debt ceiling temporarily.
In May, they will once again have to decide whether to attach spending cuts in a debt-ceiling hike, or pass a clean increase favored by the White House.
But for now, at least, they bought themselves some time.