Republicans want debt ceiling suspended until May
House Republicans introduced legislation Monday that would temporarily suspend the US debt ceiling until May 19, and postpone high-stakes negotiations over the country’s borrowing authority.
The party leadership which controls bill movement in the House had announced earlier that it would vote this week on the measure, allowing for a possible defusing of tensions surrounding a host of fiscal challenges facing Congress and the White House in coming months.
The government hit its statutory debt limit at the end of the year, but the administration has used several measures to postpone the devastating effects of reaching such a limit until late February or early March.
The bill unveiled Monday would give more time for Democrats and Republicans to forge a compromise on the national budget, with Republicans demanding that spending cuts feature prominently in the new plan.
If bill is passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Barack Obama, the current debt limit would be automatically extended as necessary until midnight, May 18.
The measure also would withhold salaries of members of Congress if one of the chambers does not pass a fiscal 2014 budget by April 15.
The Democratic-held Senate has not voted on a budget since 2009, and the federal government is being funded through temporary resolutions every six months.
Democratic leaders have said they would introduce a budget plan in the coming months, and pledged to consider the debt limit suspension should it pass the House.
The measure would not eliminate lawmakers’ pay in the event no budget is passed; it sets the money aside in an escrow account and would be paid in full when the budget is passed — or on the last day of the 113th Congress, at the end of next year.
Washington is in a fierce battle over spending levels.
Lawmakers haggled for months over how to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” in which taxes were set to go up on everyone on the first day of 2013 and massive automatic spending cuts would kick in if Congress did not act.
Marathon negotiations late last month produced only a partial settlement. Taxes rose on only the very wealthy, while lawmakers postponed until March any deal on how to avoid the spending cuts set to hit defense and domestic programs.