Today the House of Representatives passed legislation suspending the statutory debt ceiling through May 18 by a 285-144 vote. The bill also withholds the pay of members of Congress if a budget is not approved by April 15. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) predicted that the Senate will approve of the measure and the White House indicated it will not veto the bill.
Refusing to raise the debt ceiling is not an option because the economic consequences would be significant. At the same time, the debt can’t be ignored. As Fix the Debt said in a statement immediately following the vote:
The debt ceiling needed to be raised, but the debt still needs to be addressed. Today’s action by the House of Representatives shines a light for a productive path forward towards action to address the country’s long-term fiscal health.
We are encouraged that the bill also puts an emphasis on passing a budget in a timely manner and that the leadership of both the House and Senate signaled that they will do so. The budget process can serve as the pathway for producing a plan that addresses the debt in a responsible manner.
We need our elected leaders to come together and forge an agreement on a bipartisan budget resolution to stabilize and begin bringing down our national debt as a share of the economy. Such an agreement must advance comprehensive pro-growth tax reform and address structural changes to strengthen entitlement programs for future generations. In the short-term, we are still mired in a thicket of fiscal issues such as the ‘sequestration’ spending cuts, the expiration of the Continuing Resolution that funds our government’s day-to-day activities, and the deadlines set out in the House’s measure. Each of these moments will give our leaders the opportunities to advance a long-term, comprehensive, and bipartisan agreement to put our fiscal future on firmer footing.
Only a comprehensive plan will put a stop to the long line of fiscal speed bumps that await.