Resolve debt limit dispute or no pay for U.S. lawmakers, House Democrat says

FILE PHOTO: House Democratic leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Moira Warburton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawmakers in the U.S. Congress should have their pay frozen until the fight over whether to increase the country's debt ceiling is resolved, Democratic Representative Abigail Spanberger said in a letter on Friday.

"If the American people and the American economy are suffering as a result of congressional inaction, then members of Congress should not be rewarded with their pay," Spanberger, 43, wrote in a letter to Congress's chief administrative officer.

Talks on raising the government's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling to avoid a catastrophic default were ongoing, but a gap remains between President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress, and Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate.

It is not clear how the congressional administration would block pay, but Spanberger's call is illustrative of a growing frustration within Congress at the gridlock.

The Treasury Department says it could run out of money by June 1 if lawmakers fail to lift the amount of debt the country is legally allowed to take on, a result that would throw stock markets around the world into chaos, as the United States' reliability as a debt payer is a foundational assumption of the global economy.

Republicans insist on drastic spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, while Democrats for months have refused to budge from their position that the debt ceiling is not an appropriate vehicle to make budget changes.

"Hyper-partisanship in Congress is jeopardizing the economic strength and security of our country," Spanberger said in her letter.

Biden and the 'big four' - the top two Republicans and Democrats in Congress - were supposed to meet on Friday, but the meeting was postponed as negotiations between staff were expected to continue into at least early next week.

(This story has been refiled to delete repetitive quote in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell)