Republicans ducking for cover after debt bill passed

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 11:00pm


House Republican leaders sought to shield themselves from blame for another round of fiscal uncertainty by advancing a debt-limit increase without strings.

Small-government groups are blaming them anyway.

They are accusing them of abandoning Republican principles and are vowing to extract a political price in this year's congressional elections.

House Speaker John Boehner and many in his leadership team were among the 28 Republicans who joined with Democrats to pass a suspension of the debt ceiling until March 15 next year. The vote was 221-201.

"The House leadership has given up any pretense of fighting for fiscal responsibility," Matt Kibbe, president of Washington-based FreedomWorks, a tea party-backed group, said. "We need to add more members of Congress in 2014 that want to come here and tackle the budget and tackle the national debt."

Groups aligned with the small-government tea party movement pledged to recruit and finance challengers for lawmakers seeking re-election.

The measure now moves to the Senate, which was due to begin debating the bill yesterday.

A drama-free extension of borrowing authority without other conditions would mark a shift away from recent confrontations that brought the world's largest economy to the brink of default, culminating in the US government being shuttered for 16 days last October.

It could also avoid the turmoil that rocked US and international markets during the previous debt-limit fights.

Boehner, unable to gain enough support from his fractured party for a plan that would have tied the debt limit to a revision of military pension benefits, introduced the debt ceiling bill knowing it would need support from nearly all Democrats.

Vice-President Joe Biden said Boehner's stand-down was "a victory for the country", while the White House called the vote "a positive step in moving away from the political brinkmanship that's a needless drag on our economy". Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse