The anti-tax Club for Growth will not oppose House Republicans' plan to suspend the debt ceiling for three months, bolstering the legislation's chance at passage.
The House plans to vote Wednesday on a measure that would leave the $16.4 trillion debt limit intact but declare that it “shall not apply” from the date the measure passes until mid-May. That way, Republicans can avoid a fight over the debt ceiling without actually agreeing to raise it.
“The Club for Growth will not oppose tomorrow’s vote on the debt ceiling,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “The Club for Growth will, on the other hand, strongly oppose any efforts during the upcoming debate over the continuing resolution and sequester that fail to arrest out-of-control spending and put sensible limits on the growth of government."
There will be no spending cuts attached to the bill. Instead, Republicans hope to force a budget deal in part by mandating that lawmakers’ paychecks be held in escrow starting April 15 unless Congress adopts a comprehensive framework for spending and tax policy.
Buy-in from the Club for Growth is significant. Many House Republicans fear conservative primary challenges backed by the club and other outside groups. The group warned Republicans not to vote for House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" in December. The legislation died before it got to the floor.
In an interview, Chocola characterized the group's posture on the debt bill as watchful. He said the group would not endorse the idea but was pleased to see House Republicans appearing to formulate a strategy with a goal of reducing spending over time, as opposed to allowing themselves to be cornered by Democrats at crisis moments.
"It’s a moment where they’re at least articulating a path," he said. "That’s a good change and we’re willing to see how they do. If they deviate from the path and they don’t do what they say they they're going to do, we’ll try to change that."
He said House Republicans have pledged quietly that they will not forgo spending cuts of at least the size of the so-called sequester, set to hit at the start of March. Afterward, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will introduce a budget that will balance in 10 years — a proposal to cut dramatically more than his spending plan last year. That would be an improvement for House leaders, Chocola said.
"I would say we’re not for it, we’re not against it," he said. "We’re watching."
In contrast, the tea party organization FreedomWorks urged lawmakers to vote against the bill.
"Once again, Republican leadership is negotiating with itself to temporarily bail the big spenders out by lifting the U.S. debt limit for four months, with no immediate accompanying budget reforms or spending reductions," legislative counsel Dean Clancy said.
This post has been updated since it was first published.