Washington, Oct 10: In the first signs of a thaw, House Republican leaders Thursday offered a temporary increase in the US debt ceiling, but appeared in no mood to end the US federal shutdown, now in its tenth day.
Ahead of a meeting with President Barack Obama planned for later in the day, Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that they were making the offer to remove the immediate threat of default and allow for substantive negotiations on larger deficit-reduction issues.
But he didn’t want to set any preconditions, Boehner said shortly after a meeting of House Republican members where the party leadership presented a plan to increase the debt limit for six weeks to avoid a default when the US exhausts its borrowing authority Oct 17.
Media reports citing Boehner’s aides said the Speaker would be presenting a “clean” bill – free of any other policy conditions – as early as Thursday to raise the debt limit through Nov 22, but it would have no similar provision for ending the government shutdown.
The Republicans will continue to push for concessions on Obama’s signature healthcare law in exchange for reopening the federal government, CBS said.
The White House signalled its support for a clean, temporary debt ceiling increase but insisted it be accompanied by a vote on a clean spending bill to reopen the government.
“Once Republicans in Congress act to remove the threat of default and end this harmful government shutdown, the president will be willing to negotiate on a broader budget agreement to create jobs, grow the economy, and put our fiscal house in order,” a White House official said.
Earlier, testifying before the Senate Budget Committee Thursday morning, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Congress that failing to act on the debt ceiling before Oct 17 could lead to “irrevocable damage” to the US economy and financial markets.
“The United States should not be put in a position of making such perilous choices for our economy and our citizens,” he told some lawmakers who have suggested that it is possible to let the deadline lapse without serious consequences.
“There is no way of knowing the irrevocable damage such an approach would have on our economy and financial markets,” he said. “It is irresponsible and reckless to insist that we experience a forced default to learn how bad it is.”
Obama is also slated to meet with Senate Democrats Thursday, and their Republican counterparts Friday.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)