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On Debt Ceiling, Conservatives Counting on Leadership Promises

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
After last week’s GOP retreat, Boehner told members he is committed to cutting spending. House Republican leaders are hoping that their plan raise the debt ceiling will gain the support of the party’s right flank.

The “no budget, no pay” provision in the debt ceiling bill is similar to a proposal offered by Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee that a good number of his fellow Democrats co-sponsored in the 112th Congress, making it difficult for those members to oppose it now.

But Hoyer ripped it as a “gimmick” that is “probably unconstitutional” and “worthy of almost unrestrained derision.”

The 27th Amendment prohibits any law that changes the compensation of members of Congress from taking effect until there has been “an election of Representatives.” So any change in pay couldn’t take effect until 2015.

“I’m not sure why so many in the Republican Party are fixated on a budget,” Hoyer said, adding that he would “like to see a budget passed” but that the 2011 debt limit deal set spending levels for 10 years, making it unneeded.

The Maryland Democrat also objected to withholding members’ pay. “If they can’t get agreement, can’t pass a bill, you don’t pay them? I mean, they’re working on behalf of their constituents. I don’t think it makes any sense,” he said.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will ask Democratic members for their thoughts on the bill at Wednesday’s caucus meeting, a Democratic source said.

With 233 members, Republicans can ill afford to lose votes if they are attempting to reach 218 votes on their own. Because the GOP is mostly united around this bill, but is expecting some defections, even a handful of Democrats voting for the bill could determine whether it passes the House.

Republican Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Paul Broun of Georgia said Tuesday that they will vote against the bill because it does not include spending cuts.

At least one member, Rep. Michael R. Turner of Ohio, plans to vote against the bill because it does not address looming defense cuts under the sequester. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the House Republican Conference chairwoman, said leadership is reassuring members of the House Armed Services Committee. “We’ll talk sequester and priorities in spending when we get done with the debt ceiling,” she said.

Other Republicans have said they are worried the bill is unconstitutional, including Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, although he later said he will likely support the bill.

At a closed-door meeting of the RSC, Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Texas presented another complaint relating to the way the bill is written.

The bill says the debt ceiling “shall not apply” until May 18. Neugebauer expressed concern that the Obama administration could take on a large amount of new debt during that period, obviating the need for an increase to the debt ceiling after it lapses.

However, it’s unclear whether that is likely or even possible, and leaders said the bill prohibits such a scenario.

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.

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