WILKES-BARRE – Two Northeastern Pennsylvania congressmen were split on the No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013, with U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta voting for it and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright voting against it.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a three-month extension of the country's debt limit with the stipulation that Congress pass a budget for the first time in years or have its members' pay escrowed.
The House approved the measure 285-144 – 33 Republicans opposed it, while 86 Democrats voted to approve it. It now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it is expected to pass.
It's time for Congress to stop acting like a bunch of prima donnas that don't have to follow the same rules as the people who sent them to Washington do, said Barletta, R-Hazleton.
But, Cartwright, D-Moosic, said, This temporary proposal just kicks the can down the road and does not relieve the uncertainty faced by small businesses, the markets and the middle class – uncertainty that damaged our economy in the summer of 2011.
The bill directs both chambers of Congress to adopt a budget resolution for fiscal year 2014 by April 15. If either body fails to pass a budget, members of that body would have their paychecks put into an escrow account starting on April 16 until a budget is approved.
Any pay that is withheld eventually would be released at the end of the current Congress even if a budget isn't passed.
Barletta said families and businesses across the state and country operate under a budget. They are forced to live within their means, he said.
The former Hazleton mayor said he voted for the bill because it is time for Washington to do the same. Barletta added, If Congress is serious about achieving long-term fiscal responsibility, we must address fiscal accountability.
The legislation will set up a broader debate about responsible spending, Barletta said. He noted that House Republicans have passed budgets for two consecutive years, while the Democratic-controlled Senate has not passed a budget since April 2009.
This bill holds both the House and Senate accountable for passing a budget, he said. If a budget is not passed, member pay will be put on hold. Simply put, if we don't do our job, we don't get paid.
Cartwright said a long-term debt ceiling increase enables Congress to make rational plans.
And a balanced and bipartisan budget agreement protects Medicare and Social Security, invests in the future and responsibly reduces the deficit, he said.
However Barletta argued that Congress cannot give President Obama a blank check if it doesn't know how much money he plans to spend.
Barletta said the U.S. debt is at $16 trillion and an additional $1 trillion is overspent each year. We can't continue to operate this way, he said.