WASHINGTON — The House plans to vote today on a Republican proposal to extend the government's debt limit for three months, but conservatives were waging a last-minute effort to defeat the bill because it would not force spending cuts.
The proposal from Republican leaders would leave the $16.4 trillion borrowing limit intact but suspend it from the time the bill passes until May 18. The declaration that the debt ceiling "shall not apply" means that the government could continue borrowing to cover its obligations to creditors until then.
The measure doesn't seek spending cuts that many conservatives are demanding, but it does have strings attached: House and Senate members would forgo paychecks if Congress doesn't approve a budget by April 15. That provision is designed to force the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a budget, something it hasn't done in four years. Sponsors said they'll still work to cut spending in other bills, and they stressed that they could always fall back on automatic spending cuts approved in 2011 but not yet implemented.
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama "would not stand in the way" of the short-term bill and likely would sign it if passed by the House and Senate. The administration added that a long-term solution is still preferred.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., praised the measure as "a clean debt ceiling bill" and said that "I'm glad we're not facing crisis here in the matter of a few days."
House Republican leaders appeared confident that they would have sizable Republican support for the short-term measure, as they told the rank and file they would produce a budget that's balanced within a decade.
"Passing a short-term hike buys time for the House and Senate both to pass a budget," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told House Republicans at a closed-door caucus.
He added that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a hero among the party's conservatives, would be "working with all of us to draft a budget by the April 15 deadline. With the right reforms in place, Paul's goal is to advance a budget that balances within a decade. I applaud that goal, and share it."
Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.