Boehner offers 6-week extension on gov't ability to borrow money; WH says likely OK
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Facing a fresh deadline, House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that Republicans would vote to extend the government's ability to borrow money for six weeks — but still leave the government shutdown in place pending fresh negotiations with President Barack Obama and the Democrats.
Obama has insisted the shutdown be ended immediately, with no conditions.
"I would hope the president would look at this as an opportunity and a good faith effort on our part to move halfway, halfway to what he's demanded, in order to have these conversations begin," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters after presenting the plan to rank-and-file GOP lawmakers.
Boehner produced the proposal as the shutdown entered its 10th day. More ominously, the administration has warned that unless the federal debt ceiling is raised, the government will deplete its ability to borrow money by next Thursday, an event officials have warned could trigger an unprecedented U.S. financial default that could wound the world economy as well as America's .
After weeks of decline, financial market indexes shot higher in anticipation of a possible deal that could avert a default. Both the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 index were up more than 1 percent in midday trading.
Boehner planned to present the offer to Obama later Thursday when he and other House GOP leaders were to meet with the president at the White House.
A White House official said Obama would be willing to negotiate over the budget "once Republicans in Congress act to remove the threat of default and end this harmful government shutdown."
Obama has steadfastly insisted that Congress reopen the government and extend the debt limit without conditions. His acceptance of the GOP proposal could mean a brief resolution to the fight over the debt limit and a continuation of the shutdown while negotiations proceed.
Republicans have been demanding cuts in government programs, including Obama's 2010 health care law, and a bigger effort to cut long-term federal deficits as their price for reopening government and extending the debt limit.
Obama has repeatedly noted recent improvement in the deficit figures. After four years of trillion-dollar deficits, the 2013 shortfall is expected to register below $700 billion.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said the plan was for the House to approve the legislation Boehner described on Friday.
"It gets us down the road a little bit so they can continue to talk," said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark. Rep. Robert Pittinger, R-N.C., said the six-week extension would provide "an opportunity to bring the parties together."
Some conservatives still expressed reservations. "I'm not very enthusiastic about that," Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said of Boehner's plan.
Under Boehner's offer, the House would also appoint negotiators to bargain with the Democratic-led Senate over a budget compromise. Those talks have been on hold for months, and the two chambers have deep differences over taxes and cuts in benefit programs.
Earlier Thursday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned the Senate Finance Committee that failure to renew the government's ability to borrow money "could be deeply damaging" to financial markets and threaten Americans' jobs and savings. It would also leave the government unsure of when it could make payments ranging from food aid to Medicare reimbursements to doctors, he said.
"The United States should not be put in a position of making such perilous choices for our economy and our citizens," the secretary said. "There is no way of knowing the irrevocable damage such an approach would have on our economy and financial markets."
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