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House Approves Temporary Debt Ceiling Extension

January 25, 2013—The House of Representatives Jan. 23 approved, 285-144, a bill (H.R. 325) to suspend temporarily the statutory limit on the federal debt through May 18.  At that time, the debt limit, currently at $16.4 trillion, would automatically be increased to accommodate additional debt accumulated in the prior three months.

The bill also would suspend salaries for House or Senate members if either chamber does not pass an FY 2014 budget resolution by April 15.

After the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would vote on the measure, and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced, “[T]he Senate will once again return to regular order and move a budget resolution through the Budget Committee and to the Senate floor.”

The White House Jan. 22 released a statement that it “would not oppose a short-term solution to the debt limit and looks forward to continuing to work with both the House and the Senate to increase certainty and stability for the economy.”

The extension of the debt limit is a reversal of strategy for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had repeatedly insisted on spending cuts at least equal to any increase in the debt limit.  The debate on spending now shifts to discussions on how to avert the sequester scheduled for March 1 and how to resolve the FY 2013 continuing resolution set to expire March 27.

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Ways and Means Jan. 22 held a hearing to discuss the debt ceiling history, how past Congresses and presidents have negotiated and raised the limit, and whether the Constitution provides options to the executive branch when the debt limit is reached.  Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) opened the hearing saying, “In the simplest of terms, the debt limit helps hold Washington accountable to hardworking taxpayers….  Without a limit, Washington would be free to borrow as much as it wanted, without even a review of the bills we have racked up and those that are still coming due.” Republicans on the committee continued to push that current debt limit of nearly $16.4 trillion was “unsustainable,” and must be controlled by cutting spending.

Democrats on the panel, however, insisted that spending must be controlled with a “balanced approach,” but the debt limit debate is not the right vehicle for spending cuts. Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said, ‘The debt ceiling is about paying the bills of the United States of America, spending that this institution authorized. Manipulating it — today, next week, or in three months — damages our economy and our credibility.”


Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559


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Jason Kleinman
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Telephone: 202-903-0806