House GOP floats new debt-ceiling deal, with strings attached
House Republicans said they would agree to raise the debt ceiling, but only for three months and only if Senate Democrats promise to pass a budget (which they haven't done for three years).
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With their proposal, House Republicans are attempting to link the debt-ceiling fight to an idea with bipartisan appeal. The centrist political advocacy group No Labels and Rep. Jim Cooper (D) of Tennessee have pushed for “no budget, no pay” schemes. Existing “no budget, no pay” legislation has several dozen House sponsors of both parties (though the preponderance are Republican) and a dozen supporters in the Senate (all but one from the GOP).Skip to next paragraph
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But linking lawmakers’ pay to passing a budget does have issues, both legislative and philosophical.
First, the “no budget, no pay” scheme has one very prominent Senate detractor: majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada, who has called the legislation “stupid.” On Friday, Senator Reid’s office didn't endorse the GOP's offer, asking instead for a "clean" – or attachment-free – debt-ceiling increase, but neither did it shoot down the idea entirely.
“It is reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage,” said Adam Jentleson, a Reid spokesman, in a statement. “If the House can pass a clean debt ceiling increase to avoid default and allow the United States to meet its existing obligations, we will be happy to consider it.”
Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, hit a similar note, saying "Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt limit increase without further delay."
"No budget, no pay" legislation also has to jibe with the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which restricts lawmakers from altering their own pay until after the next election. As No Labels wrote last year about the measure: “If Congress doesn’t act in 2012, a No Budget, No Pay law could not take effect until 2015 at the earliest.”
And finally, the proposal is no guarantee of good congressional behavior. Individual lawmakers have little control of the budget, and richer members of Congress (and powerful interest groups) could use the legislation as leverage over their less-well-off peers, as Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in March.
But mostly, it would play to Americans’ lowest assumptions about what drives members of Congress.
“It is pandering of the worst sort, playing to voters’ worst instincts about Congress,” Mr. Ornstein wrote. “Given the fact that campaigns for Congress are now focused on trashing the character and integrity of the candidates, with the mud level rising after Citizens United, and given the punishing lives members of Congress lead, it is a wonder now that we get any serious, problem-solving individuals to take on the task.”