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House Republicans announce vote on three-month extension of debt ceiling

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Posted at 1:09 PM, Jan 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-18 15:09:56-05

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer

Williamsburg, Virginia (CNN) — While at a GOP retreat, House Republican leaders on Friday announced a vote next week on a three-month extension of the debt limit, with a requirement that both chambers pass a budget or go without pay.

The added condition to the short term extension bill aims to force the Democratic-led Senate to pass a budget–something the upper chamber hasn’t done in four years.

“That is a shameful run that needs to end, this year,” House Speaker John Boehner said in his closing remarks at the retreat, according to excerpts provided by his office. “We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem.”

Building onto that, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a statement that if the Senate or House fail to pass a budget in three months, members of Congress “will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay.”

House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy told CNN that “what we’re trying to do is put us on a path to a balanced budget.”

“April 15th is the deadline for both houses to pass a budget,” he continued. “A budget is a roadmap to not only where you are but where you can go. Unfortunately the House has passed one the last two times, but the Senate has not, and what has that created? A $16 trillion debt. An idea of not knowing where our economy is gonna go.”

The short-term extension strategy represents a departure from recent discussions where Republicans pushed that any increase in the debt limit must include spending cuts that amounted to the same size of the increase.

Conservative GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina signaled he agreed with the strategy.

“If you can figure out ways to get little types of reforms, little fixes for small extensions I don’t find that objectionable,” Mulvaney told reporters.

This is a notable shift, given that Mulvaney, and many of his colleagues elected in 2010, pushed for major spending cuts in exchange for increasing the debt limit.

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded to the House Republicans’ plan, saying “it’s reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage.”

“If the House can pass a clean debt ceiling increase to avoid default and allow the United States to meet its existing obligations, we will be happy to consider it,” Jentleson continued. “We have an obligation to pay the bills we have already incurred – bills for which many House Republicans voted.”

On Thursday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, told reporters that a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, perhaps one that just authorized the nation’s borrowing authority for a couple of months, was one option in a Thursday morning discussion with House Republicans about legislative strategy for the first few months of the new Congress.

“We’re discussing the possible virtue of a short term debt limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and the White House involved in discussions in March,” Ryan said.

President Barack Obama, however, has closed the door to negotiating over the debt ceiling, saying “America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up.”

“They’re going to have to send me something that’s sensible. And we shouldn’t be doing this … on a one to three-month timeframe,” Obama said at a news conference on Monday. “Why would we do that? This is the United States of America. … What, we can’t manage our affairs in such a way that we pay our bills and we provide some certainty in terms of how we pay our bills?”

The necessity of raising the debt ceiling comes shortly after the fiscal cliff, which found Republicans and Democrats at stalemate for weeks over averting tax increases and spending cuts that they had designed to trigger if they could not reach a deal.

“I’m not going to have a monthly or every-three-months conversation about whether or not we pay our bills,” Obama said. “Because that in and of itself does severe damage. Even the threat of default hurts our economy. It’s hurting our economy as we speak. We shouldn’t be having that debate.”

Republican Rep. John Fleming, R-Louisiana, said Thursday the short-term extension idea came out of an ad hoc group led by Ryan, and House Speaker John Boehner signaled he supported the approach.

At one of the closed door sessions at the retreat, rank and file members viewed a slide show that highlighted how one of the last major deficit reduction packages — known as Gramm-Rudman — was preceded by a series of short term extensions in the debt ceiling.

Fleming said many conservatives backed the idea.

“I think we’re all pretty much on board,” Fleming said, and noted that impetus behind it was to keep the pressure on for reaching a broader deal to cut spending.

CNN’s Paul Courson contributed to this report.

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