House Republicans were scheduled to pass legislation this week that would require the Obama administration to develop a plan for reducing the national debt, which is set to eclipse $19 trillion in the coming days.
The GOP on Sunday said Congress would stay out of session this week because of the blizzard, meaning the bill will have to come up the next time the House is in session. But when they return, the GOP is expected to call up the Debt Management and Fiscal Responsibility Act.
The bill is an attempt by Republicans to force the Obama administration to grapple with a debt that has grown by more than $8 trillion under Obama's seven years in office.
"It's about putting our national debt under a microscope for all Americans to examine, and finding debt reduction solutions to get our nation's fiscal house in order," Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, said about his bill in September.
Under the legislation, the Treasury Department would have to put forward a detailed plan for reducing the debt, and would have to report to Congress any time the government is about to bump up against the debt ceiling.
The debt ceiling has been suspended once again until mid-March of 2017, allowing the government to go into as much debt as necessary until that date. Marchant's bill would essentially require Treasury to report to Congress once the debt ceiling takes effect again more than a year from now.
Republicans say the point of the bill is to create some kind of periodic discussion about the debt, which has risen sharply in the face of annual budget deficits under Obama of anywhere between $400 billion to $1.4 trillion.
"The practice of raising the statutory debt limit without consideration of that which is driving the nation's debt and plans to reduce it is untenable," Republicans wrote in a House Ways & Means Committee report about the bill. That report said the bill aims to "establish a new debt limit communication framework that enhances accountability, reduces disruptive risk, and returns the focus to finding debt reduction solutions."
The bill is one of the last that former Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was able to move out of that committee before he became House speaker.
In the committee vote, every Democrat voted against it, and argued that Congress has no need for information about the size of the debt or plans to reduce it. Instead, Democrats said Treasury should issue a report on how people would be hurt if Congress failed to increase the debt ceiling when needed.
"Nowhere in H.R. 3442 does it even mention having Treasury provide Congress with estimates of the number of Americans who will be harmed if Congress fails to responsibly raise the debt limit," Democrats wrote in a dissenting view that was included in the committee report.
When the bill was considered last year, the national debt stood at $18.1 trillion. But as of this week, the debt stood at $18.96 trillion.
This story was updated Sunday to reflect the schedule change caused by the snowstorm in Washington, D.C.