GOP Leaders Say They'll Raise Debt Ceiling, but Threaten Congress' Pay

At a House retreat, Republicans say they will pass a three-month extension without spending cuts, but demand the Senate pass a budget or lose its paychecks.

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Reuters

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- House Republican leaders said Friday that they will schedule a vote next week on a plan to extend the nation's debt ceiling for three months, but that it would also require the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a budget by April 15 for the first time in four years or see senators' pay withheld.

Within an hour of their announcement, some doubters said they believed such a move would violate the Constitution. But a House Republican aide disputed that.

Under the GOP plan, House members would continue to be paid even if the Senate did not pass a budget because Republicans who control that chamber will certainly pass one, explained a senior House Republican aide. The base pay for both House members and senators is $174,000 a year.

The strategy was announced at the conclusion of the House GOP's private three-day issues and strategy session here.

"We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government's spending problem. The principle is simple: No budget, no pay," House Speaker John Boehner said in remarks he made to the Republicans at the conclusion of their retreat on Friday, according to excerpts released by his office.

Such a plan would also hit Republicans in the Senate for budget inaction. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed to be on board, in a statement from his office. "For nearly four years, the Senate Democrat leadership has prevented this body from performing its most basic of duties: passing a federal budget," he said. "That is a shameful record that needs to end this year ...."

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded that "it is reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage," a reference to claims by some Republicans that they would consider letting the nation default in order to get the spending cuts they desire. But the same spokesman, Adam Jentleson, also underscored that the Senate would be looking to the House to pass a "clean debt-ceiling increase to avoid default," and if that happens, "we will be happy to consider it."

White House press secretary Jay Carney offered, "We are encouraged that there are signs that congressional Republicans may back off their insistence on holding our economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education, and programs middle class families depend on."

Meanwhile, Ron Meyer, a spokesman for the Virginia-based conservative group American Majority Action, said he believes the announced Republican strategy would violate the 27th Amendment. That amendment holds that no law varying the compensation for the services of the senators and representatives shall take effect, "until an election of representatives have intervened." In other words, said Meyer, if Congress were to make such a move differentiating House and Senate pay, it could only take effect for the next two-year Congress.

Presented by

Billy House

Bill House is a staff writer (Congress) for National Journal.

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