Waxman Says Debt Limit Increase Will Need Democrats

The U.S. House’s inability to pass a farm subsidy and food stamps bill last month isn’t a good sign for must-pass legislation to raise the federal debt limit or extend government spending past Sept. 30, Representative Henry Waxman said.

Republicans who control the House can’t pass those bills without Democratic support, Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in an interview today with Bloomberg Government in Washington.

“That means we’ve got to have compromise, and a lot of Republicans think compromise is a dirty word,” said Waxman of California.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio lost support from more than one-fourth of his Republican caucus when the chamber defeated the $939 billion agriculture-policy bill on June 20. Sixty-two Republicans joined Democrats in the 195-234 defeat of the measure.

Divisions between the House and the Democratic-led Senate mean Congress is on pace to break last year’s record for the fewest number of bills enacted since just after World War II, when modern record-keeping began.

While the Senate passed its own version of a farm bill and a comprehensive immigration measure, the House rejected a farm bill and hasn’t begun considering immigration legislation. Many measures House leaders have brought to the floor, including one to repeal the 2010 health-care law, have little or no chance of advancing in the Senate.

Partisan Dysfunction

Waxman’s committee is a prime example of the strains between the two parties.

Bills to bypass the White House and approve the Keystone XL pipeline and to repeal Obamacare came through Energy and Commerce. Neither of those became law.

Apart from a pair of House-passed hydropower bills that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has since approved, few bills that the House committee spends time on have been taken up in the Senate. Many won’t be.

“I just don’t understand why people want to be chairs of committees and subcommittees as a majority to do nothing,” said Waxman.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a memo July 5 that the House would move at least three more energy bills later this month. “We will continue to pass our energy strategy in the House which encourages the development of all resources and removes the federal government from restricting our economic potential,” the Virginia Republican wrote.

On the list: Regulatory rollbacks for coal ash storage and increased scrutiny of regulations that would cost more than $1 billion, both similar to legislation in the 112th Congress that died in the Senate and are again opposed by most Democrats.

The House farm bill is H.R. 1947. The Senate version is S. 954.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.