Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (R-Nev.) praised House leaders Tuesday for moving ahead with a bill that would give the government borrowing authority into May, without demanding deep spending cuts in return.
He said Democrats will discuss in coming days how to deal with a House provision, attached to the bill, that would require the Senate to adopt a budget for the first time in four years or see their pay docked. He said he would be meeting with the Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to discuss the Republicans' "no budget, no pay provision."
"I’m very glad that they’re going to send us a clean debt ceiling bill," Reid told reporters. "The other stuff on it, we’ll approach that when we need to. But I’m glad we’re not facing crisis here in the matter of a few days."
The government hit the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling in December. The Treasury Department has been using extraordinary measures to extend the limit but has said that if Congress doesn't act to raise the limit by the end of February, the United States will be unable to meet its spending obligations and will default.
Republicans had been threatening to refuse to raise the limit unless Democrats offered deep entitlement cuts in return. They announced a new strategy Monday: Suspend the debt ceiling until May 19, while pressuring the Senate to adopt a budget. The House will vote on the temporary lifting of the debt ceiling on Wednesday.
Reid stopped short of saying the Senate would adopt the measure without changes if it passes the House on Wednesday. But by characterizing the House bill as a "clean" increase in the nation's borrowing limit -- a longtime demand of the White House and Democrats -- he suggested its passage in the Senate will not be difficult.
"I’m happy they sent us a debt ceiling not tied to entitlement cuts and dollar-for-dollar [cuts]," Reid said. "That’s a big step in the right direction. The other stuff on it, Sen. Murray is going to be the spokesperson on that for the next 24 hours or so. We’ll see how she wants to proceed."
The result of the House action, he said, was to buy time: "We have many months to work through this," he said.
Reid's review was far more positive than that of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who blasted the GOP measure as a diversion tactic to reporters Tuesday. If House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has support from fellow Republicans, however, he can pass the bill Wednesday without the votes of House Democrats.