A potential fight over the debt ceiling will be delayed for now, as House members voted Wednesday to extend the government's borrowing deadline until May 18.
The 285-144 vote found many GOP members stepping away from recent demands that any increase in government borrowing be paired with spending cuts. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who voted for the measure, said he supported the legislation because a provision in the bill would require members of Congress to submit and approve an annual budget—or see their salaries docked.
"The principle here is pretty simple; if there's no budget, then there's no pay," Fleischmann said in a news release. "The House has passed responsible budgets each year I've been in Congress; however, it's been 1,300 days since the Democrat-controlled Senate produced a budget. This irresponsible pattern must end this year."
Rep. Scott DesJarlais was one of 33 House Republicans to oppose the measure. In a news release, DesJarlais said he could not support the bill because the increase was not coupled with spending cuts—a "clear mandate" he said his constituents expected him to adhere to.
"I have made my position clear from the very beginning: Any increase in the debt limit needs to be offset with an equal amount of spending cuts," DesJarlais said. "Unfortunately, today's legislation did not contain a single spending cut or reform in return for giving this president an open-ended, three-month debt limit increase."
In 2011, both Fleischmann and DesJarlais voted against legislation to raise the debt limit, which included the creation of a "supercommittee" tasked with finding more than $2.1 trillion in cuts and set a chain in motion resulting in the showdown over the fiscal cliff last month.
Following the House vote, Senate leaders indicated the bill would have no trouble advancing, and White House officials assured it would be signed upon passage.
Without mentioning the provision to increase the nation's borrowing limit, Tennessee senators issued statements voicing support for the No Budget, No Pay portion of the bill. Sen. Lamar Alexander offered comments during a press conference, calling the idea a "real proposal" and adding he was confident it would soon become law.
"In Tennessee, people know that if you joined the Grand Ole Opry and refused to sing, you wouldn’t get paid," Alexander said. "So they think, ‘Well, if you join the U.S. Senate and refuse to pass a budget, which is required by law, you shouldn’t get paid.’ That’s the idea here."
Sen. Bob Corker, who donates his Senate salary to the Greater Community Foundation of Chattanooga, suggested he would support any measure geared toward encouraging lawmakers to perform the "basic responsibility" of submitting and passing a budget.
“If Congress can’t perform its most basic responsibility, I worry how we’ll ever demonstrate the courage needed to make the tough decisions necessary to put our country on a path to fiscal solvency," Corker said in a news release.
According to a Politico report, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid countered his opponents' claims Tuesday, suggesting that the Senate had approved a budget upon passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011—which also increased the debt ceiling. Reid was also quoted alluding to the No Budget, No Pay portion of the bill as being a "gimmick" meant to appease groups like the Tea Party.
Were the pay-slashing component of the bill to be enacted, the passage would not likely have a profound impact on the financial stability of many members of Congress. Although the current salary for rank-and-file House and Senate members is $174,000, the median net worth of House and Senate members in 2010 were $756,765 and $2.63 million, respectively, according to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics.