WASHINGTON — House Republicans said Friday they would agree to lift the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers of Congress pass a budget in that time to clear the way for negotiations on long-term deficit reduction.
The new proposal, which came out of closed-door party negotiations at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va., seemed to significantly reduce the threat of a default by the federal government in coming weeks. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said he was encouraged by the offer; Senate Democrats, while bristling at the demand for a budget, were also reassured and viewed it as a de-escalation of the debt fight.
The change represented a retreat for House Republicans, who were increasingly isolated in their refusal to lift the debt ceiling. Speaker John Boehner of Ohio had previously said he would raise it only if it were paired with spending cuts of equivalent value. The new strategy is designed to start a more orderly negotiation with President Obama and Senate Democrats on ways to cut the $1 trillion deficit.
To add muscle to their efforts to bring Senate Democrats to the table, House Republicans will include a provision in the debt-ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint, though questions have been raised whether that provision is constitutional.
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That “no budget, no pay” provision offered Republicans a face-saving way out of a corner they had painted themselves into — and an effort to shift blame for any default onto the Senate if it balks.