WASHINGTON — With the federal government mere months away from possibly breaching the debt ceiling yet again, Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California are proposing to withhold lawmakers’ paychecks until they vote to raise the borrowing limit.
The two Democrats on Wednesday will roll out their Pay Your Bills or Lose Your Pay Act of 2013, which would lock up members’ salaries in escrow accounts until they lift the $16.4 trillion federal line of credit.
In January, Congress temporarily suspended that borrowing limit. That reprieve expired May 19. Since then, the Treasury Department has been shuffling money from various accounts to keep paying out Social Security benefits, interest payments on bonds and other obligations.
Now the U.S. national debt has risen to more than $16.7 trillion, and Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling by October or November to prevent a federal default. Some conservative Republicans are balking at increasing the government’s statutory borrowing limit.
The McDermott-Boxer bill is the second time in five months Congress is resorting to fiscal threat against itself. In January, the “no budget, no pay” proposal helped spur Senate Democrats to pass a budget, which they had failed to do for three years, in part to avoid votes on controversial spending issues.
But the Senate budget has yet to be reconciled with the version from the House. One holdup: insistence by conservative Senate Republicans such as Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas on a binding pledge not to raise the debt ceiling.