The House GOP proposal to “suspend” the nation’s debt ceiling gained momentum yesterday as the White House stated it would support the move. Senate Majority Leader Reid signaled he is willing to bring the measure to a vote. Club for Growth, a key conservative group, said they wouldn’t “score” the measure, meaning conservatives could vote for the plan without risking their ratings with the group. It is likely the House will pass the measure this afternoon.
The plan would allow the Treasury to continue to borrow money to meet the government’s spending obligations. This authority would expire on May 19th, when a new debt ceiling would need to be negotiated. The House GOP hopes that this “breathing room” would afford lawmakers time to debate a full budget for FY 2014. For the past four years, government has operated under a series of continuing resolutions.
A chief goal of the GOP proposal is to force the Senate to adopt a formal budget. That chamber hasn’t voted on a budget for four years. Democrat leaders have been reluctant to have their members, many of whom have faced competitive races for reelection in recent years, vote on budgets with $1 trillion deficits. House leaders have said they won’t lift the debt ceiling again until the Senate passes a budget.
Beyond pushing back the debt fight, the House GOP is trying to force the Senate’s hand with a proposal to withhold congressional paychecks until Congress enacts a budget. The proposal would direct their pay into escrow accounts, to be paid out once a budget is passed.
The GOP proposal doesn’t do much but buy time for negotiations. How they use that time is still an open question.