House GOP pondering strategic debt-ceiling vote without cuts

House Republican leaders say they may allow a floor vote to increase the nation's credit limit without any of the accompanying spending or deficit-reduction reforms they have been demanding all along. The idea is to allow the vote, which they expect to fail, as a way to demonstrate that the idea of a "clean vote," being championed by President Obama and other Democrats, has no chance of passage.

"Dead on arrival," is how House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., described it on Tuesday.

Obama and many congressional Democrats have been calling for a so-called clean vote to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. They argue it is irresponsible to use the nation's credit and ability to pay bills as a bargaining chip to advance a partisan agenda, which they accuse the Republicans of doing.

But in what appears to be a strategic new twist, Cantor, who as majority leader sets the House floor calendar, is now suggesting that Democrats might just be given what they've been clamoring for.

Cantor did not provide any timeframe for such a vote.

But if it happens, the move will likely not be motivated solely by the Republican desire to illustrate poor support for the debt-ceiling vote. It now appears that House Republicans have decided that it may be politically beneficial to bait House Democrats into casting votes to raise the debt ceiling -- minus any attached conditions such as spending reforms -- convinced doing so would be to the Democrats' own political detriment.

"I think most Americans think that's a bad idea," said Cantor, "and if it is necessary for us to tell the president that is dead on arrival in the House, I believe that we can do that."

"Again, our position has been this: We will not support an increase in the nation's credit limit without serious, real changes in the way this town does business and the way it spends taxpayer dollars," said Cantor.

In response, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., noted on Tuesday that 114 House Democrats already have signed a letter circulated by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., in support of raising the debt ceiling without conditions. Hoyer also seemed to indicate that he believes there could be enough Republicans who would do so, as well, to avoid a standoff that could put the nation's credit in jeopardy.

Hoyer emphasized that he is among the Democrats who do want to pursue spending cuts and other deficit-reduction mechanisms. But he said, "I don't think an alternative is to not pass a debt-limit extension." He noted Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned that would put the country in a "very dangerous and chaotic situation."

The back-and-forth Tuesday came as Obama's bipartisan deficit-reduction working group chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, on which Cantor is a participant, is set to hold its first meeting on Thursday.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.