WASHINGTON — A bipartisan effort led by U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble to force the Senate to adopt a budget blueprint won approval Wednesday as part of legislation to suspend the limit on how much the federal government can borrow.
The legislation would suspend the debt ceiling for four months so the government can borrow money as needed to meet its financial obligations. The government had reached its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling on Dec. 31, and the Treasury Department has said it would run out of money to pay bills next month.
The measure passed on a 285-144 vote and averts another nasty battle over government spending between Democrats and Republicans that could have jarred the nation's fragile economy. Leaders of the Democrat-led Senate said they would allow a vote on the House measure as is, and the White House has said the president would not oppose it.
Wisconsin's House members were split, with Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and Ron Kind, D- La Crosse, and Sean Duffy, R-Weston, joining Ribble, R-Sherwood, in support of the bill. Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and James Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls opposed it.
A key provision of the bill is both the House and Senate must pass budget plans by April 15, as required by law, or lose their pay until the start of the next Congress in 2015. The provision is based on a "No Budget, No Pay" bill on which Ribble is the lead Republican co-sponsor.
The measure is aimed primarily at the Senate, which has not passed a budget in four years. Republicans contend no serious debate on government spending can occur until the Senate puts a budget proposal on the table.
"This vote has opened the door to transformational change in Washington," Ribble said in a statement. "For the first time, members will be held accountable for failing to pass a budget."
Before the vote, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she intended to draft a budget this year. Democrats favor a deficit-reduction plan that balances spending cuts with higher taxes.
Ribble said he would welcome a Senate budget proposal.
"It would be great if they did," he said about Murray's statement, "and actually the American people wins."
Any budget plan offered by the Senate would have to be reconciled with the House proposal Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, is expected to draft. Ryan is expected to write a budget calling for sharp spending decreases.
"The House is more than willing to work with the Senate to set America's spending priorities," Duffy said. "But we cannot negotiate with ourselves. Given the Senate's inaction, this proposal was necessary to spur that chamber into a meaningful conversation about the fiscal issues facing the nation."
The "No Budget, No Pay" provision is among the core initiatives of the bipartisan movement No Labels, which seeks to bring more civility and responsibility back to Congress. Ribble is a member of the group's Problem Solvers adjunct in Congress.
— Larry Bivins: 202-906-8105 or email@example.com