House Republican leaders said Thursday they will propose a temporary increase in the nation’s borrowing limit—a first step toward a potential compromise to end the political stalemate that has shut down parts of the government and threatens a U.S. default as soon as next week.
After meeting with his caucus, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans want substantive talks with President Barack Obama and Democrats on reducing the nation’s chronic federal deficits and debt in return for removing the immediate threat of default.
Sources said the House GOP measure would extend the debt ceiling until Nov. 22.
Boehner said the proposal that could be voted on by the House as soon as today would offer the temporary increase in the debt ceiling.
In exchange, he wants Obama “to sit down and discuss with us a way forward to reopen the government and to start to deal with America’s pressing problems.”
His language was code for further talks on a separate temporary spending plan to reopen the government. House Republicans have demanded provisions to defund or delay Obama’s signature healthcare reforms known as Obamacare with any spending plan to end the shutdown.
The White House made clear that Obama wanted both a debt ceiling increase and temporary spending to end the shutdown before he would hold formal talks with Republicans trying to wring concessions on deficit reduction and Obamacare.
“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,” a White House statement said.
Wall Street higher on possible deal
Even the hint of a possible deal lifted stocks on Wall Street. Investors have been concerned in recent weeks with the political stalemate in Washington and the potential economic consequences of any inability by the government to pay its bills.
House GOP leaders traveled to the White House Thursday afternoon to meet with the president, and Boehner and other leaders tried to frame the talks as a de facto start of negotiations.
“That’s a conversation we’re going to have with the president today,” Boehner said when asked what it would take for House Republicans to agree to reopen the government. “I don’t want to put anything on the table. I don’t want to take anything off the table.”
Senate Democrats had a separate meeting scheduled with Obama on Thursday, while Senate Republicans were invited for their own meeting today.
At the private meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday, Obama said he would consider a short-term deal to raise the federal borrowing limit, a Democratic lawmaker told CNN.
“If that’s what Boehner needs to climb out of the tree that he’s stuck in, then that’s something we should look at,” according to the lawmaker, who attended the meeting and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
At the same time, Obama has insisted he won’t negotiate unless Republicans agree to reopen the government by passing a temporary spending plan without demands by tea party conservatives to include anti-Obamacare amendments.
The legislative wrangling comes amid a stalemate that has Republicans trying to use spending and debt limit deadlines as leverage to wring concessions from Obama and Democrats.
Because of the impasse, the partial government shutdown began when Congress failed to fund the government for the new fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Another deadline looms as soon as next week, with economists warning that failure to raise the federal borrowing limit could bring a U.S. default and the possibility of another recession.
Boehner and Republicans are demanding that Obama and Senate Democrats negotiate on deficit reduction steps that would be part of legislation to reopen the government and raise the limit on federal borrowing needed to pay the bills.
Obama has refused to enter formal talks until the shutdown ends and the debt ceiling has been raised to remove the threat of default.
A senior House Republican told CNN that GOP members may be willing to go for a short-term debt ceiling hike—lasting four to six weeks—as long as the president agrees that negotiations will occur during that time.
However, no specifics were immediately available about how such legislation would take shape or how the talks would occur.
Tom Cohen, Dana Bash and Deirdre Walsh | CNN