The U.S. House on Jan. 23 easily approved a measure that would separate talks on avoiding pending defense cuts from a likely raucous political debate about raising the nation’s borrowing limit.
In a 285-144 vote, some Democrats joined GOP members in approving a House Republican leadership-crafted measure that suspends the debt ceiling until May 19. It now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says he will bring it to a vote.
The White House says President Obama “will not oppose it,” signaling he would sign the measure if it reaches his desk.
The measure would put off for three more months the threat of a U.S. government default. But it also would take away the threat of a Washington-made crisis that could occur if Congress and the White House try to simultaneously deal with three big issues: a government default; an expiring continuing resolution (CR) that could lead to a government shutdown; and agreeing on enough deficit-reduction measures to replace the pending $500 billion in defense cuts and an equal amount of domestic cuts.
By delaying efforts to resolve the most political issue, the debt ceiling, the GOP bill would create time and space for the two parties to resolve the remaining issues. Some say it if passes the Senate and is signed by president, it could make the sequester cuts less likely.
The CR expires March 27, and the defense and domestic cuts would be triggered March 1 unless Congress and the White House strike an accord on at least $1.2 trillion in additional deficit-reduction measures.
House Republicans took to the lower chamber’s floor Jan. 23 to tout a provision in the bill that would withhold lawmakers’ pay if their chamber fails to pass a budget. Democrats, like Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, declared the bill to be a political “gimmick” that fails to provide the long-term stability they say the economy needs.