U.S. House votes on temporary debt ceiling legislation

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House today voted to suspend enforcement of the debt cap.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, also includes a provision to hold lawmakers' pay in escrow starting April 15 if they haven't passed a budget by then.

The bill allows the government to pay bills for debts already incurred, not to add new spending.

Eighty-six Democrats joined 199 Republicans to pass the bill. Thirty-three Republicans and 111 Democrats voted no. All 13 Pennsylvania Republicans voted yes and all five Democrats voted no.

In an unusual alliance, Senate Democratic leaders sided with the House GOP. They promised a vote in their chamber, even as they declared the House vote was a victory for the Democratic administration.

"Republicans are in full-on retreat on fiscal policy," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters.

He said the plan is a reversal for the GOP, which earlier threatened to allow a government shutdown before it would consent to increase debt.

President Obama said he would not negotiate on the need to increase the $16.4 trillion debt cap, and he didn't, Mr. Schumer said.

"The president stared down the Republicans. They blinked because they realized they didn't have the leverage they thought they did," Mr. Schumer said.

Democrats in the House, though, said temporary fixes only delay tough decisions and create less certainty for the future.

"This is not a serious or viable attempt to address the debt ceiling issue. It's another way to avoid dealing with the difficult choices we need to make," said Rep. Robert Brady, D-Philadelphia, during a floor speech.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also condemned the legislation.

"This bill was cooked up -- when the majority party said 'We're in trouble. The people don't like us. Things aren't going well. How are we going to fix it?' So they came up with this gimmick," he said in a floor speech.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said his caucus supports the bill and will move quickly on it.

"By passing this bill the Republicans are joining Democrats to say we will not hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage. We will pay the debt we have incurred," Mr. Reid told reporters Wednesday. "The middle class has been telling us they don't want another crisis and this bill gives them the security that they deserve."

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Tracie Mauriello: tmauriello@post-gazette.com


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