On Wednesday afternoon, the House of Representatives passed the "No Budget, No Pay Act" on a 285 to 144 vote. The measure would suspend the debt ceiling until May 19 and require the pay of U.S. senators to be withheld unless the Senate produces a budget for the first time in three years.
Politico's Jake Sherman reports how Republicans settled on this approach at their retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia last week:
“With three deadlines practically upon us — debt limit, sequester and [fiscal year] 2013 appropriations — the [normal plan] is not an option,” Boehner said Thursday morning, according to sources in the room. “That means we will have to develop a plan very quickly. The stakes are very high. That makes the discussion we are about to have very critical.”
Then came the salesman: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a conservative with lots of credibility among the hard-core budget hawks in the room, described three options for resolving the debt standoff. The last one — and the option leading Republicans preferred — was to reorder the fiscal fights to hike the debt ceiling now, battle over government funding in March and then lift the debt cap again in the spring.
The leadership followed by doing something it has often failed to do given what some gripe is a top-down management style — it simply listened.
The bill passed Wednesday with the support of 199 Republicans and 86 Democrats. Senate majority leader Harry Reid greeted the bill's passage as welcome news. "I am pleased that Speaker Boehner and his House colleagues have decided to change course, and pass a bill that defuses yet another fight over the debt ceiling," Reid said, pledging that the Senate will pass a budget for the first time in over three years.
Mickey Kaus makes the case that the House GOP's maneuver isn't the big cave-in that some in the press have portrayed it to be:
I don’t quite see why the Republicans’ move to extend the debt ceiling for 3-months is the first “concession” of a party intimidated by the power of Obama’s inaugural speech (as the NYT would have it). Didn’t Boehner just get Obama to sign on to the sort of short term extension the President had previously opposed? Hadn’t Obama wanted a permanent ceiling fix? … Kind of clever of the GOPs to jiu-jitsu their bad press image into a legislative turnabout–the MSM was so used to calling them suicidal cliff-jumpers that when they seemed suddenly reasonable Obama couldn’t be seen as stopping them.