Federal Relations

January 22, 2013

House GOP Proposes to Delay Debt Ceiling Fight

Amid all the pomp and circumstance yesterday, House Republicans released their proposal to postpone a fight over increasing the nation’s debt limit by suspending it until May 19th. The measure, which is expected to be considered on the House floor tomorrow, would suspend the debt limit through May 18th 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 proposed legislation also would suspend salaries to lawmakers in either chamber that does not adopt a FY2014 budget resolution by April 15th, as required by the 1974 budget law.

If this legislation is approved by both chambers, it could take one of the three big “fiscal cliff part two” issues off the table and give lawmakers time to focus on two other fiscal issues confronting Congress: the sequester and the continuing resolution (CR) funding the government, both due to hit in March. Many Washington insiders believe the GOP plan might help take the pressure off spending battles on Capitol Hill by allowing Congress to return to creating budget resolutions in each chamber that could be debated in conference and passed through reconciliation. Many might recall this as “regular order” – something we haven’t seen in several years. According to CQ, a Senate budget resolution also could offer a path to greater deficit reduction over time because lawmakers could address specific programs and policies, a difficult proposition under continuing resolutions. Moreover, if the House and the Senate budget committees can work together in conference, it would make it possible to achieve deficit reduction through the reconciliation process, which forbids Senate filibusters.

However, it is not yet unclear if the Senate Democrats will go along with this strategy. We should know more in by next week as the clock is ticking down to the next fiscal crisis.