Utah congressmen back debt-ceiling delay
Washington • The House with the support of Utah's four representatives voted to delay a fight over boosting the government's borrowing power to mid-May and agreed to postpone their own pay until Congress approves a budget.
The Senate will take up the debt-ceiling bill shortly and President Barack Obama has signaled he is willing to sign it. The bill allows the government to avoid defaulting on its debt for the first time in the nation's history.
The Republican-led House passed the measure on a vote of 285 to 144. It would have failed without the support of a group of House Democrats, which included Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. The bill suspends the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling for four months, but does not raise it.
Matheson called the short-term nature of the bill "less than ideal, but the issue has to be addressed" and he dislikes the recent congressional trend of increasing the debt ceiling only at the edge of a default.
The legislation also would withhold the pay of members of Congress until both the House and Senate pass a budget, a slap at the Senate, which hasn't debated a budget bill since Obama's first year in the White House.
Matheson supports the idea.
"I think it is time to hold members of Congress accountable for budgeting," he said.
Utah's Republicans Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart voted with their party leaders on the legislation that pushes the debt-ceiling fight aside, allowing Congress to focus on March deadlines on the budget and the sequester, potential widespread cuts passed in the last debt-ceiling showdown.
Stewart, like many Republicans, wants to pair an extension of the debt ceiling with spending cuts.
"If we continue to forego spending cuts, and increase our debt ceiling," he said, "we could invite a downgrade of our nation's credit, damaging our economy, hurting families and small businesses, and destroying jobs."
Obama has reiterated that he will not negotiate with Congress over the debt ceiling, which allows his administration to pay for spending that Congress has previously agreed to.
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