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House prepares to raise federal debt ceiling, link congressional paychecks to passage of budget

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 6:26 p.m.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada

WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House will vote next week to permit the government to borrow more money to meet its obligations, a move aimed at heading off a market-rattling confrontation with President Obama over the debt limit.

Full details are not settled yet, but the measure would give the government about three more months of borrowing authority beyond a deadline expected to hit as early as mid-February, No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia said on Friday.

The legislation would not require immediate spending cuts as earlier promised by GOP leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Instead, it's aimed at forcing the Democratic-controlled Senate to join the House in debating the federal budget. It would try to do so by conditioning pay for members of Congress on passing budget measures through the House and Senate.

“We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government's spending problem,” Boehner told GOP lawmakers at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va. “The principle is simple: ‘No budget, no pay.' ”

The idea ran into opposition from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and other Democrats who called it a gimmick because it would set up another potential confrontation in just a few months. Votes from Democrats may be needed to help pass the measure if GOP conservatives opposed to any increase in the debt limit withhold their support.

“This proposal does not relieve the uncertainty faced by small businesses, the markets and the middle class,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. “This is a gimmick unworthy of the challenges we face and the national debate we should be having. The message from the American people is clear: No games, no default.”

The Senate has not passed a budget since 2009, which has drawn lots of criticism from Republicans but protected Democrats controlling the chamber from politically difficult votes. The GOP measure would cut off or delay paychecks for lawmakers in either House or Senate if their chamber had not passed a budget resolution by April 15, but it would not require the two sides to reconcile their differences to keep receiving pay.

Obama and fellow Democrats welcomed the developments on the debt limit.

“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,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also welcomed the development, but his office appeared to suggest Senate Democrats would not accept it because of the measure on congressional pay.

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