WASHINGTON — Forget about raising the federal debt limit. House Republicans are proposing to ignore it altogether — at least until May 18.
The House plans to vote today on a measure that would leave the $16.4 trillion borrowing limit intact but suspend it from the time the bill passes until mid-May. The declaration that the debt ceiling “shall not apply" means that the government could continue borrowing to cover its obligations to creditors until May 18.
This approach — novel in modern times — would let Republicans avoid a potentially disastrous fight over the debt limit without actually voting to let the Treasury borrow more money.
The House Ways and Means Committee unveiled the measure Monday; it is scheduled to hit the House floor today.
In addition to postponing a partisan fight over the debt limit, the measure seeks to force Senate Democrats to negotiate over a formal budget resolution by mandating that lawmakers’ paychecks be held in escrow starting April 15 unless Congress adopts a comprehensive blueprint for spending and tax policy.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the White House welcomes the House Republicans’ decision on the debt limit and that President Barack Obama “wouldn’t stand in the way" if the bill passes the House.
Later in the day the White House released a statement saying that it “would not oppose a short-term solution to the debt limit and looks forward to continuing to work with both the House and the Senate to increase certainty and stability for the economy."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., praised the measure as “a clean debt ceiling bill" and said that “I’m glad we’re not facing crisis here in the matter of a few days."