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House GOP leaders give leeway on debt

– House Republicans backed away from their resolute position on the federal debt ceiling, announcing Friday that they will move next week to boost the government’s borrowing authority for three months.

The move is a retreat from earlier insistence among some Republicans that any such debt increase would have to be matched by spending cuts of equal or greater size.

A vote on the proposal is expected Wednesday. If successful, the measure would postpone what was expected to be a major clash with the White House over spending. The new strategy, crafted at a three-day retreat here that ended Friday, is one sign that Republicans, battered at the polls last November and saddled with record-low public approval, are looking for new ways to litigate their differences with President Obama and congressional Democrats over spending and deficits.

Under the bill, Republicans will seek to raise the debt limit to allow government borrowing through mid-April – long enough, they say, to give both chambers time to pass a budget for the next fiscal year. If either chamber failed to adopt a budget by April 15, that chamber’s members would then have their congressional pay withheld.

As laid out to fellow Republicans in speech at the retreat, House Speaker John Boehner said the goal would be to force Senate Democrats to pass a budget, something they have failed to do for more than three years. With a budget in place, he told them Republicans would require that a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling be tied to significant spending cuts.

“We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem,” he said, according to excerpts from a speech he gave during the retreat that were released Friday.

As for docking the Senate’s pay if it does not adopt a budget, he said, “The principle is simple: No budget, no pay,” Boehner said.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate would “be happy to consider” an increase in the debt ceiling that arrives without conditions. He did not address, however, how the Senate would treat the House’s proposal to tie member pay to the passage of a budget.

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