The U.S. House voted today to suspend the country’s debt ceiling until May 18 and withhold pay from U.S. senators if the upper chamber does not approve a budget by April 15. House Republican leaders didn’t have enough votes in the GOP caucus to pass the bill, but dozens of Democrats crossed over to delay a potential default by several months. Three of Iowa’s four House members supported the "No Budget, No Pay" act; details and comments are below.
Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman explained the concept of the No Budget, No Pay Act for the Washington Post:
Under the proposal, the Treasury Department would be permitted to ignore the $16.4 trillion cap on government borrowing, running up additional debt to pay the nation’s bills through May 18. At that point, the debt limit would automatically reset at a higher level.
In an analysis released Wednesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center predicted that the Treasury would run up about $450 billion in additional debt during that period and that the date of potential default would be postponed at least until the end of July.
The House measure also requires senators to adopt their own budget blueprint by April 15 or have their paychecks withheld and placed in escrow until this session of Congress ends in 2015.
This bill is not the “clean” debt ceiling hike President Barack Obama has demanded of Congress. Rather, “Republicans are hoping the bill gives Congress a few months to find a longer-term debt-ceiling agreement that includes significant spending cuts.” House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan promised today that “Spending cuts are coming,” and that House Republicans will not agree to revenue increases beyond those included in the “fiscal cliff” approved earlier this month.
The No Budget, No Pay act passed by a comfortable margin of 285 votes to 144 (roll call), but both parties were divided. Iowa’s Tom Latham (IA-03) was among the 199 Republicans who voted for the bill. Steve King (IA-04) was one of 33 Republicans to oppose it. Some GOP conservatives objected to the lack of spending cuts; King had constitutional concerns, described in this press release.
“The American people rightfully expect Congress to do its job, and that includes passing a budget.” said King. “However, while I support the concept of the ‘No Budget, No Pay’ bill, the 27th Amendment to our Constitution specifically says ‘No law, varying the compensation for services of Senators and Representatives shall take effect’ until after an intervening election. The language is clear and unambiguous. I support the spirit of the bill, but it did not meet Constitutional standards.
Each member takes their own oath of fidelity to the constitution, and I respect the view of my colleagues who disagree. In order to keep my oath to the Constitution, my only choice was to vote no.”
House Democratic leaders denounced No Budget, No Pay as a “gimmick” and a “joke,” but 86 Democrats were concerned enough about the risk of default to cross party lines for this bill. Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were both in the yes column; 111 House Democrats voted against the bill. I haven’t seen any public comment from Braley, but Loebsack’s office sent out this press release.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after the House voted to temporarily suspend the debt ceiling. The bill also sets in motion legislation that would withhold the pay of Members of Congress if they do not pass a budget. Loebsack was the second cosponsor of the No Budget, No Pay Act in 2011 and is an original cosponsor of similar legislation this Congress.
“While today’s vote temporarily moves us away from the threat of defaulting on the debt our nation has already incurred, it does nothing to address our most pressing problem – growing the economy and setting our country on a sustainable path. Today’s vote is just another example of Congress kicking the can down the road without actually dealing with the issue at hand. Even though I believe we should provide more long-term certainty for our economy and job creators, I cannot allow the ineptitude of Congress to affect adversely small business owners and the pocketbooks of Iowans. Defaulting on our loans would simply be kicking the economy when it is already down.
“Further, it is unacceptable that Members of Congress continue to be paid without carrying out one of their main duties – passing a budget each year. It is time for Members to do their part, and that is why I strongly support the No Budget, No Pay Act to hold Members accountable for getting their job done.”
I will update this post if I see any public comments from Braley or Latham.
UPDATE: Here is Latham’s statement. I would have posted it sooner, but Latham’s press secretary has refused my multiple requests to be added to his press distribution list.
LATHAM’S MESSAGE FOR CONGRESS: “IF WE CAN’T PASS A BUDGET, WE DON’T DESERVE A PAYCHECK”
Iowa Congressman Votes For No Budget No Pay Measure & Introduces Stricter Bill That Would Freeze Funds to Congress if House, Senate Fail to Adopt Budget Resolution by May 15 Of Each Year Going Forward
Washington, Jan 23 – With the U.S. Senate closing in on four years without passing a budget resolution, Iowa Congressman Tom Latham joined with a majority of members in the U.S. House of Representatives to approve a bill that withholds the pay of members of Congress this year if they fail to do the most basic job of passing a budget.
“This is a commonsense bill that allows us to responsibly manage the nation’s finances while forcing members of Congress to do what every responsible Iowa family, farmer and Main Street business does each year – pass a budget – or they won’t get paid,” said Latham. “Simply put to Congress – no budget, no pay.”
Latham has been a leading proponent in Congress of efforts to force Congress to pass a budget each year – something that is already required by law but often ignored recently, because failing to follow the budget law doesn’t carry with it any penalties on Congress.
Latham reintroduced legislation Wednesday he authored in the previous Congress, The Do Your Job Act, which would freeze all funds to Congressional offices every year Congress fails to adopt a budget resolution for the coming fiscal year by May 15.
“With our nation’s debt now in excess of $16 trillion, it’s absurd that Congress can continue to neglect its Constitutional obligation and operate without a budget,” Latham said. “For Iowa families, a budget is a blueprint for living within a household’s means. For almost four years now, the Senate has played by a different set of rules and failed to pass a budget, all while objective analyses have pointed to a pending fiscal crisis and the American people have expressed alarm at our bursting deficits.
“The Do Your Job Act is intended to do what it says: force members of Congress into doing their job to budget by suspending their pay and funds for their offices. No private-sector worker in Iowa or anywhere else could possibly still get paid if he or she ignored their job for years on end. Why should members of Congress be treated any differently?”
House leadership folded the basic concept of Latham’s Do Your Job Act approach into the No Budget, No Pay Act, legislation approved Wednesday by a vote of 285-144. The No Budget, No Pay Act would block pay to the members of any chamber, the House or the Senate, that fails to adopt a budget resolution for fiscal year 2014 by April 15 this year.
“I am pleased that House leadership included the Do Your Job Act’s commonsense approach in our policy agenda for this year, but this needs to be a permanent policy enforced every year,” Latham continued. “It’s not an unreasonable request to ask the Senate to pass a budget, but for as long as that chamber – and as a result, Congress – fails to get the job done, there should be stiff penalties in place. Our mounting debt won’t wait for us to act, and we need to get in front of this generation-defining problem now.”