WASHINGTON – The Arkansas delegation voted with the House majority Wednesday to suspend the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling until May rather than force a budget showdown now.
Most House Republicans, including the four from Arkansas, supported the bill because it incorporated a “No Budget, No Pay” requirement on Congress.
The bill would require the Senate and House to pass a budget by mid-April or see their paychecks withheld. The Senate has not approved a formal budget resolution in more than three years.
“If you don’t do your job, you shouldn’t be paid for it,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock.
Lawmakers would eventually get their paychecks because of a constitutional limit on tampering with their own pay. They can only change pay for future sessions of Congress.
Griffin, along with Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, voted in favor of the bill, which passed 285-144.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged Wednesday to bring the bill forward swiftly and the White House has indicated that it will be signed into law.
“This bill surrenders the hostage Republicans have taken in the past by decoupling the full faith and credit of the United States from cuts to Social Security and Medicare, or anything else,” Reid said.
Reid dismissed the “No Budget, No Pay” provision as a gimmick added to appease Tea Party conservatives and noted that spending levels have been set the last two years under a bipartisan Budget Control Act.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., joined Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to introduce a “No Budget, No Pay” bill in the Senate that would also apply to passing annual appropriation bills.
The federal government is now operating under a “continuing resolution” to fund the fiscal year that began nearly four months ago.
“We have to get back to the regular appropriations process,” Boozman said.
Congress will face several additional budget deadlines in the coming months.
The federal budget faces $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts on March 1, which were required under the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Congress also needs to complete work on the current fiscal budget or risk a government shutdown when the “continuing resolution” expires on March 27.
The debt ceiling will likely need to be extended again when the suspension expires on May 18.
House Republicans are hoping to secure deep, and long-term, spending reductions during those debates.