With inauguration day at hand, House GOP members presented their proposal to postpone a fight over increasing the debt limit by suspending it until May 19. The move came as both parties finalized plans behind the scenes for a coming battle over budget priorities.
The measure, which is scheduled for House floor action in the coming days, would:
• Suspend the debt limit until May 18th
• Provide for an automatic increase in the current $16.4 trillion limit
• Suspend the payment of salaries to lawmakers in either chamber that does not adopt a fiscal 2014 budget resolution by April 15
The measure would suspend the debt limit and then provide for an automatic increase in the current $16.4 trillion limit to match the amount of the government’s outstanding debt plus new obligations “to fund a commitment incurred by the federal government that required payment before May 19.”
The legislation would also suspend the payment of salaries to lawmakers in either chamber that does not adopt a fiscal 2014 budget resolution by April 15, as required by the 1974 budget law. The salaries would be held in escrow until a budget resolution is adopted, or until the 113th Congress ends on Jan. 3, 2015. The “no budget, no pay” language would not require the two chambers to agree on a common budget conference report after they adopt their own version.
The Senate weighs in on the debt ceiling/budget issue
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Budget Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) have not announced their budget strategy. But Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he was sure the Senate would try to move a budget resolution that incorporates plans for a tax overhaul that would raise revenue to help reduce the deficit. The bill would put members’ pay into an escrow account until they can agree on a budget resolution.
Even if Congress deadlocks, members would still get their pay - eventually
Under the 27th Amendment, Congress cannot change its pay until an intervening congressional election has taken place. That means members would get their pay at the end of the 113th Congress, regardless of their progress on a budget.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, cautioned that withholding members’ pay would be unconstitutional. As a result, the threat of blocking salaries would not carry any real weight with lawmakers, he suggested. But Rep. Issa later said in a statement that he expected the bill to resolve the constitutional questions and that he expected to support it.
Hill watchers say the 113th Congress is expected to pass a budget without resorting to No Budget/No Pay tactics.