January 24, 2013

Congress ready to put off fight on debt ceiling

A House vote signals the restriction is likely to be put off for four months, although some don't like it.

By ROSALIND S. HELDERMAN The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

John Boehner
click image to enlarge

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner


Polls have indicated the public pins fault for Washington's lurching crises on House Republicans.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Wednesday that her panel will, indeed, move to draft a budget blueprint this year, confirming a similar pledge made Sunday by Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the Senate's third-ranking Democrat.

Murray characterized the decision as one that had been under discussion for weeks, long before the House moved. And she pledged to write a budget that addressed the problem of debt with a "balanced approach" that would protect government programs that help the middle class.

Schumer said that would mean a budget that would pair spending cuts with higher tax revenues.

A Senate budget that would include higher taxes would sharply clash with a House plan that will be advanced later this year by Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee.

He has promised House conservatives a budget proposal that would balance within the next decade. That would likely require severe cuts, far deeper even than the budgets that he has proposed for the past two years, which were slammed by Democrats for their sharp spending reductions and overhaul of Medicare. Those spending plans each took nearly 30 years to balance the budget.

Wednesday's House vote represented a victory by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who had faced a series of embarrassing revolts from conservative members of his own party in recent weeks.

He argued that Republicans should defuse the potentially politically damaging fight over the debt ceiling and instead use other threats, including the possibility of a government shutdown in April, to push for spending cuts.

Still, the measure only passed because some Democrats joined Republicans in support. The 199 Republicans who backed the bill, while representing a majority of the party's caucus, fell short of the 218 needed to ensure adoption.

Also Wednesday, Boehner called on the Senate to follow the House's lead and adopt a budget that will balance within 10 years. He said the House will not agree in May to a long-term increase in the debt ceiling without an agreement that would significantly reduce deficits.

"It's time for Congress to get serious about this," he said. 

-- Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller contributed to this report.


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