Bennet, Udall slam House GOP debt ceiling deal

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House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia.

DENVER — House Republicans announced Friday that they will vote next week on a bill that would raise the nation’s debt ceiling for three months, a major shift after threatening to let the country default on its debts as leverage to bring President Obama to the bargaining table on spending cuts.

The move is a major shift for the House GOP, and a tacit acknowledgment that President Obama, who has vowed not to negotiate over the debt ceiling, won the argument on whether it was right for Congress to hold the economy hostage to gain political leverage.

But Republicans aren’t ceding this ground without a catch — a provision in the legislation that would stop pay for members of Congress if the Senate doesn’t pass a budget.

In tweets and officials statements issued throughout the day Friday, supporting Republicans made a populist, common-sense appeal aimed at ginning up outrage over the Senate’s failure to lay out its spending priorities.

“The House has passed a budget every year while the Senate has not passed a budget for the last four years in clear violation of the law,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora. “Since an increase in the debt limit is required I think it’s only fair for the hardworking taxpayers of this country to know how Congress plans to spend their money.”

“Enough is enough,” said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, on his Facebook page Friday. “Senate Democrats have failed to pass a budget for four years – one of the most basic governing responsibilities they are charged with. Where I come from, if you don’t do your job you don’t get paid. In fact, you probably get fired. 

“Despite their failure, however, members of the Senate continue to collect a paycheck for a job they have not completed. Next week, the House will vote on legislation that will require the Senate to join us in finally confronting government’s spending problem. The bill will require the House and Senate each to pass a budget, and member pay will be withheld if they fail. The principle is simple: no budget, no pay.

“Sounds fair to me.”

It’s unclear if Speaker John Boehner, who told members about the plan at a retreat on Friday, will be able to muster enough votes to get it passed. Because the bill wouldn’t include immediate spending cuts, as Boehner has previously demanded in exchange for a vote to raise the debt ceiling, House conservatives could vote against this proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the House plan “reassuring.”

“It is reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said Friday. “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.”

But Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, told FOX31 Denver there’s little reassuring about a deal that simply puts off the debt ceiling deadline for a few months.

“There’s a reason Sen. Bennet calls Washington the ‘Land of Flickering Lights’,” said spokesman Adam Bozzi. “Short term extensions on top of short term extensions – from funding the government to the FAA to Farm Bill – mean uncertainty for business and families and are hurting our economy.

“If we default on the debt ceiling, interest rates will spike, our creditworthiness will come into question, and our economy could plunge into a deep recession. The debt ceiling should not be used as a bargaining chip — Congress should meet its obligations and pay its bills. Coloradans want Washington to come together, avoid default, and get its work done.”

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, also a Democrat, echoed Bennet and argued that more stop-gap solutions undermine the nation’s economic recovery.

“The last thing Colorado businesses and the financial markets need is a constant gauntlet of government defaults and shutdowns,” Udall told FOX31 Denver. “It is time for the House to focus on real, bipartisan solutions like the Simpson-Bowles plan – instead of superficial fiscal maneuvers that only inject uncertainty into our economy.”

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