WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republican leaders Friday offered President Barack Obama a three-month reprieve to a looming, market-rattling debt crisis, delaying stipulations that any immediate extension of the government's borrowing authority be accompanied by spending cuts.
The offer came with a caveat aimed at prodding Senate Democrats to pass a budget after almost four years of failing to do so: a threat to cut off the pay of lawmakers in either House or Senate if their chamber fails to pass a budget this year. House Republicans have passed budgets for two consecutive years.
The idea got a frosty reception from House Democrats but a more measured response from the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Republicans hadn't settled on full details, but the measure would give the government about three more months of borrowing authority beyond a deadline expected to hit as early as mid-February, No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia said Friday.
The legislation wouldn't require immediate spending cuts as earlier promised by GOP leaders like Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Instead, it's aimed at forcing the Democrat-controlled Senate to join the House in debating the federal budget.
"We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government's spending problem," Boehner told GOP lawmakers at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va. "The principle is simple: 'no budget, no pay.'"
But the move ran into opposition from House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who called it a gimmick because it would set up another potential confrontation in just a few months. Votes from Democrats may be needed to help pass the measure if GOP conservatives opposed to any increase in the debt limit withhold their support.
"This proposal does not relieve the uncertainty faced by small businesses, the markets and the middle class," said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill. "This is a gimmick unworthy of the challenges we face and the national debate we should be having. The message from the American people is clear: no games, no default."
But Senate Democrats and the White House were more cautious and sounded encouraged by the Republicans actions.
"We are encouraged that there are signs that congressional Republicans may back off their insistence on holding our economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education and programs middle-class families depend on," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement. "Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt-limit increase without further delay."
"It is reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson. "If the House can pass a clean debt-ceiling increase to avoid default and allow the United States to meet its existing obligations, we will be happy to consider it."