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August 2, 2015

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Nevada’s Dean Heller provides key to debt ceiling deal

Dean Heller

Dean Heller

For the first time in a year and a half, House Republicans and Senate Democrats have reached a relatively painless accord on how to avoid hitting the national debt ceiling — with the key to the compromise coming from Nevada Sen. Dean Heller.

The House voted Wednesday to approve a three-month suspension of the congressionally set limit to the president’s borrowing authority, along with a direction to lawmakers to pass a 2014 budget by the regular, procedural order or risk losing their pay.

That caveat has come to be known in Washington as “No Budget, No Pay.” It is the brainchild of Heller, who first introduced the concept in July 2011 as a bill directed at forcing the Senate to pass budgets by regular order starting in 2013.

Heller’s been stumping for legislation ever since, advocating for its adoption before the Senate Government Affairs Committee with the help of the nonpartisan group No Labels.

But the bill still hadn’t picked up much hard support — it secured only three official co-sponsors during the last Congress — until House Republicans decided to make it their latest bargaining chip with the Senate late last week.

“I’m comfortable with their short-term fix,” Heller said Wednesday, noting that while he would rather see the No Budget, No Pay standard become a permanent practice in Congress, he was happy to see it applied to fiscal 2014.

“Our goal is the long term,” Heller said. The House bill “is close enough as far as I’m concerned...I think it’s moving in the right direction.”

Sen. Harry Reid said Wednesday that he planned to bring up the House-passed debt ceiling bill for a vote in the Senate without making any changes, all but guaranteeing that it will be ready for President Barack Obama to sign into law in the next few days.

“We believe strongly that this is a way forward,” Reid said.

The annual salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000. As party leader, Reid makes $193,400 a year. (House Speaker John Boehner has the highest annual lawmaker salary, at $223,500.)

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