House Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling

The House of Representatives voted today to suspend the law limiting the nation’s borrowing power until mid-May:

WASHINGTON — Avoiding an economic showdown with President Obama, the House on Wednesday passed legislation to suspend the nation’s statutory borrowing limit for three months, without including the dollar-for-dollar spending cuts that Republicans once insisted would have to be part of any debt limit bill.

The measure, however, did include a provision that docks the pay of lawmakers if one of the chambers of Congress fails to pass a budget blueprint by April 15. That provision provided House Republicans with a rationale for giving in on the debt ceiling, at least temporarily.

“It’s real simple: no budget, no pay,” Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said before the measure passed by 285 to 144. Eighty-six Democrats joined Republicans to make up for the 33 Republican defections.

Representative Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas, said the phrase went back to Jamestown in 1608, when Capt. John Smith established the “no work, no food” rule for the embattled colonists. Republicans have sought for months to score political points over the Senate’s failure to pass a formal budget plan for more than three years.

The debt ceiling legislation — mindful of constitutional hurdles imposed by the 27th Amendment on Congressional pay — would simply impound lawmaker salaries until a budget is passed or the 113th Congress ends, whichever comes first. And it would not require the House and the Senate to come to a compromise on the two spending and tax blueprints, which are likely to be very different. That will be the really difficult task.

“The good news is that our Republican colleagues finally recognized that America must pay its bill and meet its financial obligations without conditions,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. “The bad news is they only want to do it for three months.”

The decision by House Democrats to oppose a measure they called gimmickry forced many Republicans to vote to do something most said they would never do: lift the debt ceiling. Senate Democratic leaders shrugged off the dictate and claimed victory.

“The president stared down the Republicans. They blinked,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

Indeed they did. I actually have some significant questions about the Constitutionality of this salary impoundment provision of the bill as there’s a fairly good argument that it violates the provisions of the 27th Amendment. Anyone who tells you they know the answer to that question, though, is simply making it up given the fact that the 27th Amendment has never been litigated in a Federal Court, at least not on anything remotely relevant to the question that would be brought up here. I don’t think it will end up mattering, though, since the Senate Democrats seem intend on passing their own Budget Resolution relatively soon, and the House will likely be right there with them. The real battle will come in March when Congress has to deal with the Sequestration Cuts that were delayed from January 1st, and the expiration of the Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2013 that was passed back in September. That’s where the real battles will be.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That’s where the real battles will be.

    Doug, you continue under the delusion that they actually care. Here is a clue: They don’t.

  2. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Well, they do, but only to the extent to which they can blame Obama for the economic problems of the nation.

    Sorta like some commentators here, in fact.