ONTD Political

House agenda still a broken record

12:47 am - 01/20/2013
In Reversal, House G.O.P. Agrees to Lift Debt Limit

WASHINGTON — Backing down from their hard-line stance, House Republicans said Friday that they would agree to lift the federal government's statutory borrowing limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers of Congress pass a budget in that time to clear the way for negotiations on long-term deficit reduction.

The new proposal, which came out of closed-door party negotiations at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va., seemed to significantly reduce the threat of a default by the federal government in coming weeks. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said he was encouraged by the offer; Senate Democrats, while bristling at the demand for a budget, were also reassured and viewed it as a de-escalation of the debt fight.

The change in tack represented a retreat for House Republicans, who were increasingly isolated in their refusal to lift the debt ceiling. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio had previously said he would raise it only if it were paired with immediate spending cuts of equivalent value. The new strategy is designed to start a more orderly negotiation with President Obama and Senate Democrats on ways to shrink the trillion-dollar deficit.

To add muscle to their efforts to bring Senate Democrats to the table, House Republicans will include a provision in the debt ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint, though questions have been raised whether that provision is constitutional.

That “no budget, no pay” provision offered Republicans a face-saving way out of a corner they had painted themselves into — and an effort to shift blame for any default onto the Senate if it balks. The House Republicans’ campaign arm quickly moved from taunting Democrats about raising the government’s borrowing limit to demanding that they sacrifice their paychecks if they fail to pass a budget.

“The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget for four years. That is a shameful run that needs to end, this year,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement from Williamsburg. “We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem.”

House Democrats met the deal with scorn, indicating they would inflict maximum political pain by making Republicans either break a campaign promise to carry it to passage or defy their leaders. But other Democrats were more sanguine. The president had said he would not sign a short-term debt ceiling increase, but a senior administration official said that as long as there were no surprises, the White House was likely to accept the House's offer. Most important, the official said, Republicans had broken from the “Boehner rule” imposed in 2011: any debt ceiling increase was to include a dollar-for-dollar spending reduction.

The decision represents a victory — at least for now — for Mr. Obama, who has said for months that he will not negotiate budget cuts under the threat of a debt default. By punting that threat into the spring, budget negotiations instead will center on two earlier points of leverage: March 1, when $1 trillion in across-the-board military and domestic cuts are set to begin, and March 27, when a stopgap law financing the government will expire.

Reordering the sequences of those hurdles was central to the delicate Republican deliberations that resulted in the new plan. In the days leading to the Williamsburg retreat, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman and former vice-presidential nominee, had been meeting with the leader and three past chairmen of the conservative House Republican Study Committee to discuss a way through the debt ceiling morass.

Those conversations led into Thursday morning, when Mr. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, opened the retreat by going through the timeline for the coming budget fights, according to aides who were there.

They turned the floor over to Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the House Ways and Means chairman, who delivered a blow-by-blow description of the economic disaster that could be wrought by a government default. Mr. Camp also talked through the notion held by some Republicans that the Treasury Department could manage a debt ceiling breach by channeling the daily in-flow of tax dollars to the most pressing needs, paying government creditors, sending out Social Security checks and financing the military. His message was that it would not work, the aides said.

Then Mr. Ryan stood to talk over the options he had developed with the House conservative leaders. They could do a longer-term debt ceiling extension with specific demands, like converting Medicare into a voucher-like program. Or they could lower expectations, reorder the budget hurdles with a three-month punt, and add the “no budget, no pay” provision.

Persuading Republicans who adamantly oppose raising the debt ceiling took some time, and the ensuing discussion stretched on and on, breaking at noon for lunch on Thursday, resuming at 2:30, until 4 p.m., then concluding Friday.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority whip, met with freshmen early Friday to make sure they were on board. Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor joined Mr. Ryan for one last meeting with conservative leaders — Representatives Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Tom Price of Georgia — to make sure they were on board. Then the top four leaders sealed the agreement midmorning.

Mr. Obama will unveil his own 10-year budget plan in February, laying out his tax and spending plans for his second term. But Senate Democrats, for the past four years, have refused to move a budget blueprint to the Senate floor, in violation of the Budget Act of 1974, which laid out new rules for controlling deficits.

For the past two years, House Republicans have approved sweeping budget plans that would fundamentally remake Medicare and Medicaid, sharply reduce domestic spending, increase military spending and order a wholesale rewriting of the federal tax code. But without Senate negotiating partners, those plans, written by Mr. Ryan, have been more political statement than legislative program.

“This is the first step to get on the right track, reduce our deficit and get focused on creating better living conditions for our families and children,” Mr. Cantor said. “It's time to come together and get to work.”

I like the way the House threatened to cut off lawmakers' pay to frighten the Senate into compliance and the Senate was essentially like "Ok, fine, what's a little less money?". Also Ryan, shut up with the fucking vouchers already. Also also, can you Executive Order a budget?


belu 20th-Jan-2013 05:37 pm (UTC)
If it's possible to filibuster a budget, then I bet Senate Republicans will filibuster any one that gets proposed, and then try to blame Democrats for the lack of passed budget.
teacoat 20th-Jan-2013 06:13 pm (UTC)
Fortunately, the budget process is un-fillibuster-able. Debate is limited to a total of 20 hours.
alexvdl 21st-Jan-2013 03:38 am (UTC)
Why would they need to do that?

"But Senate Democrats, for the past four years, have refused to move a budget blueprint to the Senate floor, in violation of the Budget Act of 1974, which laid out new rules for controlling deficits."
world_dancer 20th-Jan-2013 05:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm perplexed at how "no pay" is supposed to scare the Democrats more than it scares Republicans. They're both not going to get paid.

And honestly, I think we could just cut pay in Congress as part of budgeting. Set Congressional pay at the median income of that rep's district. I bet a lot of people would be more interested in minimum wages and unions suddenly.
hinoema 20th-Jan-2013 06:09 pm (UTC)
Exactly, on both counts. If a Congressional member's pay was determined by the relative fiscal health of their districts, I bet they'd care a lot more about the actual constituents' jobs and well being.

Plus, offering a socialist librul hippy Democrat an excuse to make a sacrifice in order to make a point is a gift, not a threat. XD
teacoat 20th-Jan-2013 06:24 pm (UTC)
The problem with that is that the median income of a rural district in Iowa would definitely not be enough to live in or anywhere near DC. So, even more than is the case already, only independently wealthy people would be able to run for Congress.
tabaqui 20th-Jan-2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
They can all club together and be roomies somewhere. Really don't care.
teacoat 20th-Jan-2013 09:09 pm (UTC)
So you'd rather make it literally impossible instead of just practically impossible for anyone who isn't already rich to run for Congress?
tabaqui 20th-Jan-2013 09:11 pm (UTC)
It doesn't matter how much they're paid. If they're *already rich*, they don't need pay. If they're getting paid what they could have reasonably expected in their home district, they're used to that level of income.

Change campaign finance laws and adjust the incomes accordingly. Being a congressperson or senator or *whatever* isn't supposed to make you a millionaire, and spending millions to get elected shouldn't be allowed.
teacoat 20th-Jan-2013 09:42 pm (UTC)
I'm with you that campaign finance laws need to be changed. But DC has the highest median per capita income in the country (as of 2011), and is also one of the most expensive cities to live in. Someone from the poorest district in Mississippi would be making just over a *quarter* of the median per capita income of DC, because there are areas of this country where the median per capita income is LESS than full-time minimum wage. Even if someone is "used to" making $12,000 a year in Holmes County, MS, that $12,000 is probably going to have half of the purchasing power in DC, if even.

Edited at 2013-01-20 09:42 pm (UTC)
tabaqui 20th-Jan-2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
Which is why i said - let 'em all roomie together somewhere. As congresspeople/senators, they don't pay for much out of pocket - all the ones who've done the 'live on food stamps' challenge have said they had to avoid all the free food at every meeting and event they went to. They're driven everywhere on the government's dime, or they can take public transportation.

Basically, what i'm saying is - if we stop making them millionaires, maybe we'll actually get people who give a fuck doing the job. And if the 'median income' of their home state means they're poor for four years, frankly - it might do them some good.

teacoat 21st-Jan-2013 12:01 am (UTC)
And what I'm saying is that the "people who give a fuck" won't be able to afford to serve in Congress, particularly those from poorer-than-average districts. Looking just at the incoming freshman senators and congresspeople for 2013, their median net worth is a million dollars higher than the national average. And these are people who have not even started receiving their salaries yet. As a matter of fact, the median net worth for the incoming freshmen is a hundred thousand dollars *higher* than that of Congress as a whole. Do you really think it's going to matter that much to someone with a net worth of $1 million whether they make $170,000 (the current salary) or $17,000? Meanwhile someone with a family to care for or student loans to pay off *is* going to care. Especially considering they need to quit their job to even run for Congress in the first place, and probably go into debt in the process.

Congressional salaries could stand to be much smaller, sure. But if they're not high enough for someone/a family to live off of, then that means they are going to need outside money, not just to get elected, but to actually serve in Congress.
moonshaz 21st-Jan-2013 12:31 am (UTC)
world_dancer 22nd-Jan-2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
Congressional salaries were never meant to be a liveable wage. They've turned into that and more over time because Congress controls it's own purse strings. But originally, "politics" wasn't a career, but a civic duty. The pay was a token to supplement income lost due to being in DC.

And the politicians in question already do club together and rent group homes, which seems to lead to a lot more getting done.

Also, seems like someone who suddenly discovered his median wage was at the poverty level might want to FIX the poverty level (which isn't correct) and minimum wage standards. Help your constituents = help yourself.
teacoat 22nd-Jan-2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
Congressional salaries were never meant to be a liveable wage.
You mean like back in the day when only white male landowners could serve or vote?

Also, seems like someone who suddenly discovered his median wage was at the poverty level might want to FIX the poverty level (which isn't correct) and minimum wage standards. Help your constituents = help yourself.
Maybe in theory, but in practice this is not what would happen. The only people that would be able to afford to serve would be people that are already wealthy. They'll take the salary hit for however many years they're in Congress, probably still earning an ungodly amount of money in interest from whatever investments they have. They're going to care about poverty levels just as much as any rich person does.

And I don't know where you're getting the idea that this would somehow allow them to get more done. It's not like they don't work enough hours, or if they worked more then more bills would get passed. The reason more doesn't get done is because of politics and fundraising. Which is why reforming elections and campaign financing would do a whole lot more good than extreme salary reform ever would, and is the only way to ever make Congress into anything other than a glorified yacht club.
ljs_lj 21st-Jan-2013 09:13 am (UTC)
I have often thought that they should live in dorms, wear uniforms, and be required to use public transportation (or carpool). Knock down the lifestyle inflation and bullshit and just do their jobs. At this point I would gladly also give them an entertainment allowance to see a few movies or go to the theater once a week - which is already more than what a lot of their constituents can afford - and turn the dorms into small suites of rooms so their families could stay with them from time to time if they would just buckle down and actually work.
tabaqui 21st-Jan-2013 04:01 pm (UTC)
No kidding.
agentsculder 20th-Jan-2013 07:17 pm (UTC)
While the idea of Congress not getting paid if they fail to do their damn jobs sounds peachy keen, it's technically unconstitutional. See Article 1 Section 6.

Once again, proof that the GOP has no idea what the Constitution actually SAYS.
tabaqui 20th-Jan-2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
circumambulate 20th-Jan-2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
In theory relatively high congressional pay is intended to attract reasonably competent people who could otherwise be making better money in the private sector.
hinoema 21st-Jan-2013 04:33 am (UTC)
In theory, 'relatively' high CEO pay is intended to attract reasonably competent people who could otherwise be making better money elsewhere. We all know how well *that* works, too.
world_dancer 22nd-Jan-2013 03:10 pm (UTC)
No, it isn't. It's not how Congress was set up at all.

Current pay is the result of what happens when employees get a hand at setting their own wages every year.
blackjedii 20th-Jan-2013 06:05 pm (UTC)
I'm down with the idea.

I'm waiting for the Republicans to sneak in a "oh yeah no more abortions" somewhere in the actual proposal

tl;dr they aren't doing this because they want to. They're doing it to get street cred for the 2016 elections

Edited at 2013-01-20 06:06 pm (UTC)
blackjedii 20th-Jan-2013 06:10 pm (UTC)
also I should add:
It sounds like the next few months will not be "WE MUST CONTROL SPENDING!!" but instead "We must do our jobs and pass a budget if only THOSE EVIL DEMOCRATS WOULD HELP US!"

seriously. srsly.
teacoat 20th-Jan-2013 06:26 pm (UTC)
They're probably more worried about 2014. I think they're finally wising up that, hey, their constituents don't like it when they don't do anything. Although I'm surprised more of them didn't get voted out this time.
(no subject) - Anonymous
teacoat 21st-Jan-2013 12:39 am (UTC)
Fair point. :/
blackjedii 20th-Jan-2013 07:01 pm (UTC)
I goofed and said that instead of 2014 but the more I think about it... yeah, 2016. They're safe and sound in Congress seeing as how they gerrymandered it until the next census (Which they've already screwed seeing as how they altered that too) but they must have ~*~*~*~Teh Presidency~*~*~*~

also quite a few of these Congresspeople are a bit dumb and don't know anything other than ENEMY! ENEMY! SOCIALIST EVIL ENEMY!
alexvdl 21st-Jan-2013 03:36 am (UTC)
Oh good. Once more instead of doing their jobs, they can push the budget further into the future. This has always worked well in the past. I mean the last 15 years without a budget have gone pretty well, right?

Fuck. Do your jobs.

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