By Peter Schroeder - 09/19/13 06:44 PM EDT
Paychecks for lawmakers are also at stake in the debate over funding the government, after House Republicans included language in their latest proposal that would halt that compensation if the debt limit is not raised on time.
The continuing resolution (CR) the House is set to vote on Friday includes language that would bar lawmakers from receiving a paycheck if Congress were to fail to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.
The provision is buried in the amendment GOP lawmakers agreed to add to its funding proposal, which would also defund the Affordable Care Act and allow the Treasury Department to continue paying interest on its bonds if the borrowing cap is not raised.
That prioritization plan, which the Treasury has called unworkable, would allow the government to continue borrowing beyond its statutory cap but only to raise funds needed to prevent the government from defaulting on its bonds, as well as to keep making Social Security payments.
But the amendment also includes a provision that specifically states that lawmaker compensation cannot be paid out under the prioritization arrangement. Technically, however, a slew of government checks beyond policymaker paychecks would not be cut if the debt limit were not raised, as the Treasury would be unable to borrow enough funds to meet a range of previously authorized spending. The prioritization arrangement would remain in place until Dec. 15 under the House CR, the same day the funding measure would expire.
The amendment offered by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) to the CR includes much of McClintock's original language, along with language defunding ObamaCare. The House Rules Committee produced a rule Wednesday that will include the amendment in its text. The House is set to vote on that rule Thursday, and upon passage the language would be included in the CR Republicans hope to pass Friday.
McClintock's bill was passed by the House shortly before the debt limit reemerged as an issue on Capitol Hill. In January, both parties agreed to suspend the nation's borrowing cap for several months. The debt limit again took effect in May, requiring the Treasury Department to begin employing extraordinary measures to remain under the borrowing cap. That suspension deal was actually driven by another threat to congressional paychecks, as it included a provision that would block lawmaker pay if the two chambers failed to pass budgets.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned Congress those measures will be exhausted by mid-October, leaving the government with a small cash reserve to try and manage its ongoing obligations.
But the idea of blocking lawmaker pay if a debt-limit deal stalls is actually a bipartisan one. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) introduced legislation in June that would prevent lawmakers from being paid until the debt ceiling was boosted.