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The House Ways and Means Committee has approved a bill that would prioritize Social Security payments and Treasury bond dividends if and when the nation again bumps up against the federal debt ceiling. The bill passed on a party-line vote, with Republicans in favor.
Democrats opposed the ostensible fail-safe measure, calling it the prelude to another Republican attempt to embarrass President Obama and paralyze the government over the debt-ceiling issue — this time with the political inoculation of continued Social Security payments.
The $16.7 trillion debt ceiling will come back into effect on May 19, after Congress suspended it earlier this year. The House Republican bill would allow the Treasury Department to continue issuing debt beyond the limit and past May 19.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has his own budget gambit. He is demanding that House leaders move the budget process forward by naming negotiators to a conference committee to hammer out a deal.
Senator Reid wants to name 12 senators to the conference, but neither Senate Republicans nor House leaders want to cooperate. They don’t want a conference yet, they say. They appear not to want a budget compromise at all.
The House has been legislatively AWOL for months. Mr. Reid is daring them to legislate on the budget. Who will win the moral and political high ground on the issue? It’s still early — but getting later and later.