WASHINGTON — The House plans to vote Wednesday on a Republican proposal to extend the government's debt ceiling for three months, but conservatives were waging a last-minute effort to defeat the bill because it would not force spending cuts.
The proposal from Republican leaders would keep the $16.4 trillion ceiling intact but declare that it "shall not apply" until mid-May, or about three months after it was passed by the Senate and signed into law.
The measure doesn't seek spending cuts that many conservatives are demanding, but it does have strings attached: House and Senate members would forgo paychecks if Congress doesn't approve a budget by April 15. That provision is designed to force the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a budget, something it hasn't done in four years. Sponsors said they'll still work to cut spending in other bills, and they stressed that they could always fall back on automatic spending cuts approved in 2011 but not yet implemented.
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama "would not stand in the way" of the short-term bill and likely would sign it if passed by the House and Senate. The administration added that a long-term solution is still preferred.
"A temporary solution is not enough to remove the threat of default that the Republicans in the Congress have held over the economy," the Office of Management and Budget said Tuesday in an administration statement of policy. "The Congress should commit to paying its bills and pass a long-term clean debt limit increase that lifts an unnecessary uncertainty from the nation's economy."
House Republican leaders appeared confident that they would have sizable Republican support for the short-term measure, as they told the rank and file they would produce a budget that's balanced within a decade.
"Passing a short-term hike buys time for the House and Senate both to pass a budget," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told House Republicans at a closed-door caucus.
He added that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a hero among the party's diehard conservatives, would be "working with all of us to draft a budget by the April 15 deadline. With the right reforms in place, Paul's goal is to advance a budget that balances within a decade. I applaud that goal, and share it."
Boehner also gave assurances that automatic spending cuts due to take effect March 1 "will be in place unless and until we get spending cuts and reforms to replace it, and that start us down a path to balance within the decade."
Still, "Tea Party" groups, key conservatives and several Republican House members who want to use the debt ceiling as leverage against the White House to force Obama to rein in federal spending balked at the short-term solution.
The Tea Party Patriots denounced the bill in an email call to action Tuesday that urged its members to call their House member and set up a meeting with them next week to register their opposition to the Republican-sponsored bill.