Debt ceiling vote in U.S. Congress on Wednesday

Jan 22, 2013 | News

Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., where the U.S. Congress will vote on the debt ceiling Wednesday. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Capitol Hill in Washington DC, where Congress will vote on the debt ceiling tomorrow. COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

By Graeme McNaughton

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are planning to vote on the debt ceiling Wednesday, but have added a provision that could hold back paycheques for Congress and Senate if a budget is not passed in the next three months.

Bloomberg is reporting the legislation will extend the government’s power to borrow money until May 18. Under the proposal, the House would suspend the pay of both houses if a budget is not passed by April 15.

“President Obama is again demanding an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling, and refusing to discuss the possibility of enacting spending cuts along with it to lower our debt,” said John Boehner, the speaker of the House, in a statement.

“Republicans will hold the president and his senate accountable for their failures on the budget and press for real action to lower spending. We must take these steps together so we can begin to solve the debt problem that endangers our children’s future,” Boehner said.

The news of the vote comes just one day after Obama was sworn in for a second term.

Democrats, who hold a minority of seats in the House of Representatives, say the Republican plan will not help those who need a strong economy in order to thrive.

“The House Republican plan fails to give American families, small businesses, and economic markets the certainty needed to boost economic growth,” said Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democratic congressman who sits on the House Budget Committee, in a statement.

“This is also a thinly veiled attempt to gain political leverage at the expense of the economy. It will merely reinforce the idea that Washington cannot act responsibly when it comes to our financial obligations,” he said.

Reuters is reporting that while he had hoped for a long-term resolution, Obama won’t stand in the way of a short-term increase in the debt limit.

One analyst said the maneuver by the Republicans is an attempt to rebuild their public image.

“They know they’re in trouble on this particular issue,” said Ronald Pruessen, a professor at the Centre for the Study of the United States at the University of Toronto, told Humber News.

“Given public reactions to the notion of shutting things down, clearly the majority of the voting public would blame the Republicans for the disaster.”

Pruessen also said if members of the House of Representatives and the Senate do not pass a budget, it may be illegal not to pay their salaries.

The 27th amendment of the U.S. constitution states that “no law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

Obama has stated that he would not be willing to negotiate over the debt ceiling like had been done in 2011, when Republicans added provisions for spending cuts in order to pass the debt ceiling extension, according to USA Today.

One theory that has circulated of how he could circumnavigate Congress is the “platinum trillion dollar coin” theory. The Atlantic Wire reported that due to a little-known law, the Treasury is permitted to mint platinum commerative coins in any denomination without the approval of Congress.

Theoretically, the Treasury could mint a trillion dollar coin which could then by deposited into the Federal Reserve, thus allowing the government to be able to continue to pay its debts.