As we have been reporting for some days and weeks, House Republicans have figured out that they must unlink the debt ceiling from spending restraint.

House Republicans are finally united on a debt ceiling approach. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released a statement today laying out this approach:

Fitch Ratings agency recently said, if the debt limit is raised without substantive deficit reduction, our nation’s credit rating could be downgraded. The President’s plan to simply borrow more money without any reform in Washington puts us all at risk.

The first step to fixing this problem is to pass a budget that reduces spending. The House has done so, and will again. The Democratic Senate has not passed a budget in almost four years, which is unfair to hardworking taxpayers who expect more from their representatives. That ends this year.

We must pay our bills and responsibly budget for our future. Next week, we will authorize a three month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget. Furthermore, 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.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was equally direct:

Before there is any long-term debt limit increase, a budget should be passed that cuts spending. The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget for four years.  That is a shameful run that needs to end, this year.

“We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem.  The principle is simple: no budget, no pay. …

A long-term increase in the debt limit that is not preceded by meaningful and responsible reductions in government spending might avert a default, but it would also invite a downgrade of our nation’s credit that damages our economy, hurts families and small businesses, and destroys jobs.

House leadership tells me there will be substantial support for this plan among Republicans, confirming that the last few weeks have been a time of explaining options and building consensus in the GOP conference. A senior House aide also told me this was not discussed in advance with the White House.

As for the remainder of the sequester (two months’ worth of the scheduled $1.2 trillion in budget cuts were eliminated in the “fiscal cliff” deal), more than $970 billion in cuts will go forward, unless other spending reductions are substituted, likely to be attempted in the House budget.

The statements from House leaders were noticeable for barely mentioning President Obama. As many have counseled the House, the less tangling with him the better; instead, take on the slothful Senate. House Republicans need to follow an open, regular order of business and try to force the Senate to vote both on the extension and on a budget. Another GOP leadership aide said, “The Senate will have a hard time explaining why they don’t want to pass a budget.” And it will have a more difficult time refusing to sign onto a debt-ceiling increase. Alas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will actually have to do something for a change.

Republicans for once have acted in unison within the limits of the House’s power. Boehner remains fully in command. What a difference a few weeks can make.