White House gives grudging welcome to debt limit plan
The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama would not block a Republican plan to extend government borrowing authority by three months but would prefer a longer term debt ceiling hike.
Defusing a showdown with Obama, Republican House leaders are ready to permit the government to borrow more money to meet its obligations until May 18, despite earlier demands that debt ceiling hikes be matched by spending cuts.
The move would effectively remove the debt ceiling question from a looming conflagration with Republicans on Capitol Hill over spending cuts due to come into force at the end of next month and a soon-to-expire government budget.
White House spokesman Jay Carney noted that the debt ceiling workaround still had to make it past opposition from some conservative Republican members of Congress.
“If it does and it reaches the president’s desk he would not stand in the way of the bill becoming law,” he said, but added that Obama did not believe it was good for the economy in general to raise the debt ceiling in “increments.”
“He believes we ought to do this for longer periods of time,” Carney said, adding that Congress should give Obama authority to raise the debt limit on his own if it was not up for the job.
“Having said that, what we saw happen last week was significant, in our view. The House Republicans made a decision to back away from the kind of brinkmanship that was very concerning to the markets, very concerning to business, very concerning to the American people.”
The government hit its statutory $16 trillion debt limit last year but the administration has used extraordinary measures to postpone the devastating economic shock waves that would result from defaulting on its obligations until late February or early March.
The House bill would withhold salaries of members of Congress if the chamber or the Senate does not pass a fiscal 2014 budget by April 15.
The Democratic-held Senate has not voted on a budget since 2009, and the 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 bill pass the House.
Obama has repeatedly warned that he will not negotiate with Republicans over the debt limit, pointing out that it concerns money available not for fresh spending, but for debt obligations already entered into by Congress.
Some conservative Republicans expressed concern Tuesday about their leadership’s plan, though the bill would still be expected to pass the House of Representatives.
Republican Representative Tim Huelskamp said he would vote no, arguing that “raising the debt ceiling for a budget to be named later” is probably something he will not be able to vote for.
Representative Thomas Massie also expressed disquiet.
“I’m still having a lot of reservations about raising the debt limit for three months clean. It’s a hard thing to do,” he said.
Representative David Schweikert of Arizona was also opposed, saying the vote should be a chance for Republicans to demand a budget bill that balances the budget in 10 years.