On Friday, House Republicans unveiled a plan to avert a potentially perilous game of political brinksmanship over raising the debt ceiling and to force Democrats to pass a budget for the first time in nearly four years.
The plan: pass a three-month temporary debt limit increase in exchange for an agreement to pass a budget or face no pay for members of Congress.
“The principle is simple,” said House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) on Friday. “No budget, no pay.”
During a House Republican retreat on Friday, Boehner said passing a budget is critical to putting the breaks on Washington’s out of control spending:
“Before there is any long-term debt limit increase, a budget should be passed that cuts spending. The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget for four years. That is a shameful run that needs to end, this year.
We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem. The principle is simple: no budget, no pay….
A long-term increase in the debt limit that is not preceded by meaningful and responsible reductions in government spending might avert a default, but it would also invite a downgrade of our nation’s credit that damages our economy, hurts families and small businesses, and destroys jobs.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) called the plan “the first step to get on the right track” and urged members of Congress “to come together and get to work.”
House Democrats blasted the GOP plan, calling it a “gimmick” that will not fix America’s long-term fiscal problems. “This proposal does not relieve the uncertainty faced by small businesses, the markets and the middle class,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “This is a gimmick unworthy of the challenges we face and the national debate we should be having. The message from the American people is clear: no games, no default.”
On the Senate side, the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) expressed support for the plan. “Speaker Boehner and his House Republicans are exactly right to insist that the Democratic Senate fulfill its moral responsibility and statutory duty to produce a budget, joined with a sustained effort to cut spending and move our nation towards a balanced budget,” said Sessions in a statement. “The House must succeed in its effort to force an end to the Senate Majority’s lawlessness. They know they cannot negotiate with the Democratic Senate if the Senate won’t even set forth a proposal.”
In a January 8th CNBC appearance, Sessions proposed conditioning a debt ceiling increase on passing a budget. GOP Senate Budget Committee members have already sent a letter to Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) laying out a proposed schedule to complete a budget ahead of the April 15 deadline.
But some conservatives say they are skeptical about the “no budget, no pay” plan. “It’s clever, but not likely to achieve its goal,” says American Majority Action Press Secretary Ron Meyer. Meyer says the provision may violate the 27th Amendment’s prohibition against varying House and Senate compensation prior to the seating of a new Congress.
“While most conservatives believe that Congress shouldn’t be paid if they don’t pass a budget, they also believe Congress shouldn’t be paid unless they pass a responsible budget,” said Meyer. “But mostly, they believe in following the Constitution.”
On Monday, Acting Budget Director Jeff Zients said Obama will miss the legally-required February 4th budget deadline, the fourth time he has done so as president.