News

Republicans want to tie debt limit to military pensions

Republicans want to tie debt limit to military pensions

DEBT BATTLE: Republicans were gauging support for the plan in anticipation of a Wednesday House vote that would extend the U.S. Treasury's authority to borrow through March 2015. The Treasury has said a cash crunch could start after Feb. 27, when it expects to exhaust any remaining borrowing capacity. Photo: Associated Press

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives will seek to make a 13-month extension of the federal debt limit conditional on the repeal of a planned cut in military pension benefits, lawmakers said on Monday.

Republicans were gauging support for the plan in anticipation of a Wednesday House vote that would extend the U.S. Treasury’s authority to borrow through March 2015. The Treasury has said a cash crunch could start after February 27, when it expects to exhaust any remaining borrowing capacity.

The proposal from U.S. House Speaker John Boehner came after weeks of internal party struggle. It is not the “clean” debt limit increase sought by President Barack Obama, but falls far short of past Republican demands for deep spending cuts that have provoked political standoffs and a partial government shutdown last October that rattled financial markets.

But passage of the House leadership plan will likely need Democratic support after a number of Republican lawmakers expressed skepticism about the cost of the proposal.

Members of both parties have shown support for canceling the 1 percent reduction in cost-of-living increases for non-disabled military retirees of working age that was approved only in December. Earlier on Monday, the U.S. Senate voted 94-0 to advance a similar measure past a procedural hurdle.

“It’s the only proposal I think that they felt that enough Republicans and Democrats would vote for,” Republican Representative Matt Salmon said after party leaders unveiled the plan at a closed-door meeting on Monday.

House Republicans previously considered various demands surrounding a debt limit extension, including ordering approval of the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline and repealing some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature healthcare law.

But those were dropped because there would not be enough Republican support to overcome the opposition of Democrats, Republican aides said.

Salmon, who is from Arizona, said he believed as many as 150 Republicans and 100 Democrats would vote for a debt limit extension linked to military pension relief, allowing it to pass.

House Democrats want to see how many Republicans intend to vote for the debt limit plan before pledging support, a senior Democratic aide said.

SMALLER AMBITIONS

The more modest plan offered by Boehner follows three years of partisan battles over the $17 trillion debt limit and other U.S. fiscal deadlines, in which Republicans sought trillions of dollars in deficit reduction, along with delays and denial of funding to Obamacare.

Representative Mo Brooks said Boehner’s plan would leave the United States in a “more precarious” fiscal position.

“Right now, we’ve got a debt ceiling bill that increases spending, which is diametrically, 180 degrees opposite of what we were battling over just two years ago, where the question was how much in spending cuts we were going to get,” said the Alabama Republican.

Many Republican fiscal conservatives view the 2011 budget fight as their most effective use of the debt limit as leverage because it led to a deal to cut U.S. discretionary spending by some $2.1 trillion, including automatic, “sequester” cuts.

Repealing the pension cuts will cost $6.9 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office said on Monday. Republicans propose to pay for that by extending the sequester for another year, through 2024, for non-discretionary programs.

But Brooks, Salmon and other Republicans said those savings come too far in the future and may never materialize.

(Reporting by David Lawder and Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

INSTANT REPLAY: The week’s best sports photos

cavaliers

A look back at some of the week's biggest plays in sports and the moments you may have missed.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

hockey

Here's a look at some of the big sporting events taking place this weekend.

in National

Making headlines this week

AP141543910901_5

A look back at some of the big stories and the headlines you may have missed.

in Sports

Sepp Blatter wins re-election as FIFA president

FIFA president Sepp Blatter speaks during a press conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. FIFA will not reopen the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and will publish at least some of the confidential report into the bidding process, Blatter said Friday.

Sepp Blatter's FIFA re-election came despite demands that he quit in the face of a major bribery scandal.

in Sports

WATCH: Preserving Muhammad Ali’s childhood home

15-overlay7

An effort is underway to restore the Louisville home where the boxing legend grew up.