MISHAWAKA -- Newly elected U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski spoke to The Tribune on Thursday about her vote to suspend the federal debt ceiling, federal pay and other fiscal issues facing the 113th Congress.
Along with 86 Democrats and 199 Republicans, Walorski, R-Jimtown, voted Wednesday in favor of the No Budget, No Pay Act, suspending the debt ceiling for three months and ensuring the federal government does not default on its debt.
The final vote was 285-144, with Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, also in support.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill in the coming days, and President Barack Obama has said he would sign it if it makes it to his desk.
Though the bill did not include any spending cuts, as some conservative Republicans had wanted, it did include a provision impounding lawmaker pay if Congress does not pass a budget by April 15.
Walorski said she would not have supported the bill without that provision.
"This is an opportunity to make the Senate accountable," Walorski said during a 15-minute sit-down interview at her district office in Mishawaka, noting that the upper chamber of Congress has not passed a budget since 2009.
Asked about the constitutionality of the bill -- some have argued that the 27th Amendment prevents Congress from impounding lawmaker pay -- she said she has no concerns as far as that goes.
"The 27th Amendment says you can't vary pay," she said. "Our position is that means increase or decrease, but we're just withholding."
Wednesday's vote demonstrates Congress is serious about passing a budget, Walorski said, which needs to happen before any serious negotiations can take place related to long-term debt reduction.
"It took a long time to build up the debt, and it's going to take a long time to get out from under it," she said, "but at least we're moving in the right direction."
Walorski also spoke about her support for a proposal to extend the pay freeze for federal employees and officials, including the vice president, Cabinet secretaries and members of Congress, through Dec. 31.
Co-sponsored by her and 34 others, the proposal, H.R. 237, could save as much as $11 billion in spending over the next 10 years, Walorski said, according to an estimate provided by the Congressional Budget Office.
Combined with the No Budget, No Pay Act, the proposal demonstrates Congress is serious about reducing government spending, she said.
"I think we took two steps forward this week in terms of the kinds of things the American people expect from this Congress and the kinds of things I talked about during my campaign," she said.
Obama issued an executive order in December granting federal employees a 0.5 percent pay increase beginning in March.
Pay for federal employees has been frozen since January 2011.
Walorski, who took office Jan. 3, left Washington about 1 p.m. Wednesday, shortly after the debt ceiling vote, and arrived in South Bend about midnight, following a long delay in Chicago.
She said she plans to spend the next seven days or so touring the 2nd District, which covers most of north-central Indiana, including Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, before heading back next week.
Staff writer Erin Blasko: