Softening their hard-line stance, House Republicans on Friday announced a vote next week on extending the federal government's debt limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers pass a budget in that time so that negotiations on long-term deficit reduction can take place.
"Before there is any long-term debt limit increase, a budget should be passed that cuts spending," House Speaker John Boehner said in his closing remarks at the Republican Party's three-day retreat in Williamsburg, Va., on Friday. "The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget for four years. That is a shameful run that needs to end, this year."
Republicans had earlier said any increase in the debt limit must correspond to spending cuts.
Boehner threatened on Friday that if a budget resolution is not passed by the two chambers, members of Congress will be prevented from being paid. "We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government's spending problem," he said. "The principle is simple: no budget, no pay."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor added in a statement, "If the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay."
Neither Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid nor the White House responded by Friday night to the linking of Congress' pay to the passage of a budget.
However, the White House portrayed House GOP's willingness to extend the debt ceiling as a victory for President Barack Obama.
"The President has made clear that Congress has only two options: pay the bills they have racked up, or fail to do so and put our nation into default," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "We are encouraged that there are signs that Congressional Republicans may back off their insistence on holding our economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education and programs middle class families depend on. Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt limit increase without further delay."
"And as he has said, the President remains committed to further reducing the deficit in a balanced way."
Reid's spokesman, Adam Jentleson, told reporters it was "reassuring" that Republicans were beginning to "back off their threat to hold our economy hostage." "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."
House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy said they were looking at a balanced budget. "April 15th is the deadline for both houses to pass a budget," he told CNN. "A budget is a roadmap to not only where you are but where you can go. Unfortunately, the House has passed one the last two times, but the Senate has not, and what has that created? A $16 trillion debt. An idea of not knowing where our economy is going to go."