By Jim Morrill
The fight over the federal government shutdown has moved beyond health care, at least according to U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte.
"We've really moved beyond Obamacare," Pittenger said Monday. "This whole debate has really moved into the debt ceiling."
Like a growing number of people in Washington, the Charlotte Republican expects the current shutdown to last at least until Oct. 17, the date administration officials have said is the deadline for Congress to raise the debt ceiling.
He said he supports Republican efforts to push for spending cuts or changes in entitlement programs in exchange for supporting a higher debt ceiling. Economists predict that failing to raise the debt ceiling would cause a U.S. default that would be felt in markets around the globe.
Pittenger also said the shutdown could end if Senate Democrats agree to some changes involving the Affordable Care Act, including delaying the deadline for individuals to sign up.
Pittenger is the first House member from North Carolina to co-sponsor a bill that would cut the pay of members of Congress in proportion to the number of days the government is shut down. The bill, whose 42 co-sponsors include GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, is in a House committee.
Pittenger, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, does not accept his $174,000 salary, instead giving the money to charities.
The Washington Post reported Monday that at least 204 lawmakers have said they plan to donate or refuse their salaries during the shutdown, or hold it in escrow.