October 17, 2017

House Votes to Temporarily End Debt Ceiling

The 285-144 vote staved off an impasse that could have put the full faith and credit of the United States government into doubt and potentially set off an economic disaster. Instead, the next Republican showdown with the president will come in March, when the subject will be across-the-board spending cuts first and a possible government shutdown by the end of the month.

“We know with certainty that a debt crisis is coming to America. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when,” Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republicans’ vice-presidential nominee last year and current Budget Committee chairman, said as he vowed to press ahead with deep spending cuts.

To give House Republicans a rationale for giving in on the debt ceiling after dropping demands for offsetting cuts, the House legislation included a provision that would withhold the pay of lawmakers in a chamber of Congress that fails to pass a budget blueprint by April 15.

That allowed House Republicans to turn a spotlight on Senate Democrats, who have not passed a detailed budget blueprint since 2009.

“It took one week in which their paychecks were on the line, and now the Senate is going to step up and do the right thing,” Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, said after the vote.

Senate Democratic leaders shrugged off the dictate as an insignificant gimmick and claimed victory.

“The president stared down the Republicans. They blinked,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, thanked Speaker John A. Boehner for reversing course and said he would take up and pass the House bill without changes as soon as next week, possibly by unanimous consent. He said he would then move quickly on a budget plan for the first time since 2009.

“Democrats are eager to contrast our pro-growth, pro-middle-class budget priorities with the House Republicans’ Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it, gut investments in jobs and programs middle-class families depend on, and cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee.

House Republicans appeared eager for that fight. For two years, the House has passed detailed but nonbinding budget plans that would cut domestic programs to levels not seen since World War II, enact changes to Medicare that would offer older people fixed subsidies to buy private health insurance, and mandate a much-simplified tax code. Democrats have criticized those plans, declined to produce an alternative, and instead demanded what they called a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction.

Now, Republicans said, the debate will be over numbers.

“We have a budget that’s described as draconian, that decimates this program or that. They have a phrase, ‘balanced approach,’ ” said Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina. “I’m tired of debating against a phrase.”

The debt ceiling legislation — devised with awareness of the constitutional hurdles imposed by the 27th Amendment on Congressional pay — would impound lawmaker salaries until a budget is passed or the 113th Congress ends, whichever comes first. And it would not require the House and the Senate to come to a compromise on the two spending and tax blueprints, which are likely to be very different. That will be the really difficult task.

House Democratic leaders tried to persuade their members to vote against the deal, so as to force as many Republicans as possible to vote to do something most said they would never do: lift the debt ceiling. But 86 Democrats voted yes, more than enough to let 33 Republicans vote no without bringing the bill down and handing Republican leaders an embarrassing defeat.

House Republicans say punting the debt ceiling to May 18 is not so much a retreat as a “re-sequencing” of the coming budget showdowns. House Republicans now take for granted that the first deadline, March 1, will come and go, and $110 billion in across-the-board spending cuts to military and domestic programs — known as a sequester — will go into force.

“The sequester is going to go into effect on March 1 unless there are cuts and reforms that get us on a plan to balance the budget over the next 10 years. It’s as simple as that,” Mr. Boehner said.

The next real showdown will come by March 27, when the stopgap measure financing the government expires. Republicans have made clear that they are willing to let the government shut down at that time to force deep spending cuts or changes to Medicare and Social Security that would bring down deficits in the long run.

Such continuing brinkmanship brought a rebuke from Ms. Murray, who said Republicans were trying to have it both ways, forcing Senate Democrats to move forward in an orderly way with a budget plan by mid-April, but threatening the next budget crisis weeks before that.

The pay provision brought its own protests. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, called it “institutionalized bribery,” since it effectively says, do what Republicans want or do not get paid. That was why the nation passed the 27th Amendment, which says Congressional pay cannot be varied within a single Congress.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/us/politics/house-passes-3-month-extension-of-debt-limit.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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