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Republicans seek three-month debt limit increase, Senate budget

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) arrives to speak to the media on the "fiscal cliff" on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 21, 2012.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) arrives to speak to the media on the "fiscal cliff" on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 21, 2012.

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia (Reuters) - House Republican leaders on Friday said they would seek to pass a three-month extension of federal borrowing authority next week to buy time - on pain of losing their own paychecks - for the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a budget plan that shrinks budget deficits.

The plan, hatched at a House Republican retreat, marks a new strategy from the party to break a budget deadlock by forcing the Senate to act first.

The Treasury needs congressional authorization to raise the current $16.4 trillion limit on U.S. debt sometime between mid-February and early March.

The Senate has not passed a formal budget resolution in nearly four years, while the House has passed budgets that have died in the Senate.

Under the planned legislation, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said if the Senate or the House fail to pass a budget by April 15, lawmakers' pay would be withheld.

"Next week, we will authorize a three-month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget," Cantor said in an emailed statement.

"If the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay," he said on the last day of a House Republican retreat in Williamsburg.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said there should be no long-term increase in the federal debt limit until the Senate passes a budget, and House Republicans will try to force the Senate into action to cut spending.

"We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government's spending problem. The principle is simple: no budget, no pay," Boehner said in excerpts of his closing remarks to the retreat at a golf resort in Williamsburg.

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said the Senate would consider the increase if it was "clean."

"It is reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage," Jentleson said in an emailed statement. "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."

Congress has relied largely on stop-gap funding measures to keep government agencies and programs running.

A House Republican leadership aide said it was not currently anticipated that the three-month debt limit increase legislation would include spending cuts. Although Boehner has previously sought at least $1 in long-term spending cuts for every dollar of debt limit increase, the aide said that the reforms associated with requiring budgets from both chambers would meet the speaker's requirements.

Spending cuts would be demanded of any longer term debt limit increase, the aide said, and Congress would still have to continue dealing with two other fiscal deadlines, the March 1 launch of automatic spending cuts, and government funding legislation that is needed by March 27.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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