The House plans to vote Wednesday to increase the U.S. debt limit and restore cost-of-living raises for military retirees, says Rep. Robert Pittenger.
The plan was announced in a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, Pittenger, of North Carolina, said Monday in Washington. The military retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments had been reduced in a December budget deal.
As the party struggles to gather votes for raising the debt ceiling before borrowing authority runs out, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew on Monday took steps to keep the U.S. under the debt ceiling and urged Congress to raise the limit to avoid "potentially catastrophic consequences."
Lew said last week that borrowing authority might not last past Feb. 27. Including Monday, House lawmakers have six working days scheduled before then.
Lew said in a letter Monday to House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, that he’ll be unable to invest fully the Government Securities Investment Fund, or G Fund, of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, starting Monday. That will provide about $175 billion in extra room under the debt limit, according to the Treasury Department.
Lew declared a "debt issuance suspension period" for the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund until Feb. 27.
Boehner will probably need votes from Democrats to increase the debt limit. He joked last week that he couldn’t get enough support from fellow Republicans to do so even if the measure authorized sainthood for Mother Teresa.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Monday that Boehner hadn’t sought support from Democrats for any measure. He said Republicans should vote for a debt ceiling increase to pay for the $1.01 trillion bipartisan budget deal lawmakers agreed to in December.
"They’ve just voted for spending money," Hoyer said. "Now they’ve got to pay for it."
Senate Democrats, who insist on a debt-limit increase without conditions, aren’t embracing Republicans’ efforts.
"We can’t possibly comment on every new rumored Republican plan," Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said earlier Monday in an email. "We will have to wait and see what they pass, since it’s often a long and winding road from the point that leadership introduces something to the point of actual passage."
The Senate this week is taking up a stand-alone version of legislation to restore the veterans' benefit adjustment. Over the years there’s been widespread bipartisan support for preventing the cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians.
Democrats have said they have the upper hand in the debt showdown and can use their leverage to prevent policy additions.
A suspension of the U.S. debt limit enacted by Congress in October expired Friday. The Treasury Department is using so- called extraordinary measures to stay under the limit.
Lawmakers haven’t ruled out a debt-limit boost without conditions if Republicans can’t get enough support for a plan.
Congress plans to be out of session the week of Feb. 17 and will return to Washington the week of Feb. 24.
Marillyn Hewson, chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corp., said Monday at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington that U.S. companies want certainty from Congress on budget and debt issues. She said she was "hopeful" lawmakers would raise the debt ceiling without delay.
The CEO of the Bethesda, Maryland-based contractor said that "elements of uncertainty, when the economy is coming back and things are starting to look better, good jobs and economic growth, these overhangs can stifle that growth."
Business groups are encouraging lawmakers to act quickly to raise the debt limit.
"Any default by the federal government on its debts would cause devastating, long-lasting effects for all Americans," the Business Roundtable, which represents major U.S. company chief executive officers, said in a letter to congressional leaders released Friday.
The Financial Services Forum, the American Bankers Association and seven other groups sent a letter to lawmakers Jan. 30 saying the last debt-ceiling deadline debate caused higher interest rates and "weakened investor demand for U.S. assets."
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