Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a debt prioritization bill on Thursday that one leading Democrat called one of the worst ideas that has ever been brought for consideration in the House.
The bill, which passed the House by a 221-207 vote, has already earned House Speaker John Boehner a fair amount of political criticism.
The bill would prioritise the nation’s payments once the debt ceiling is reached. It would direct the U.S. Treasury to pay bondholders to avoid immediate default.
The idea, according to Republicans, is to make sure that the U.S. would keep paying certain obligations in case President Barack Obama and Congress cannot agree to lift the debt limit later this year.
Democrats have said that the strategy would force the U.S. to pay China before its own troops, something that Boehner acknowledged in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, said the bill is one of the worst he’s ever seen in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I strongly oppose this bill, which, as our colleagues have said, says we should pay the government of China before we pay our troops, before we pay our veterans, before we pay other bills here in the United States,” Van Hollen said on the House floor before the vote. “Of all the bad ideas that have come to the floor of this House, this one is one of the worst.”
“It’s a reckless, irresponsible proposal that says the United States of America is not going to pay all the bills that are due and owing. That will have a terrible impact on our creditworthiness. It will undermine the full faith and credit of the United States. And it would wreak havoc in the economy.”
The bill has virtually no chance of becoming law. The Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the legislation, and President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it.
Still, it paints an early picture of what could be an ugly confrontation over the need to raise the nation’s debt limit — which will likely be necessary by September or October.
Republican leaders found a solution in January that appealed to both their conservative base and enough Democrats, which tied raising the debt ceiling to both chambers of Congress passing a budget. So far in this round, however, Republicans have not been able to produce a similar bill or plan, which could leave summer negotiations a bit stickier.
“The message of the bill is terrible and no one takes it seriously as a piece of legislation, since it’s a nonstarter in the Senate and the President would veto it in any event,” one senior Democratic Senate aide told Business Insider on Wednesday. “Doing nothing would probably be smarter for them than doing this bill.”
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