WASHINGTON: Republicans offered a short term lift to the US debt ceiling yesterday, sending stock prices soaring on signs that a bitter political impasse could end short of a historic default.
But the Republican offer of a six-week extension to US borrowing authority would not end the partial shutdown of the US government until President Barack Obama enters talks on a long-term budget deal — a step the White House has so far refused to take.
“Listen, it’s time for leadership,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner said after meeting his restive caucus ahead of a separate meeting with his fellow party leaders with Obama at the White House.
“What we have discussed as a conference is a temporary extension of the debt ceiling—in exchange for a real commitment by this president and the Senate majority leader to sit down and talk about the pressing problems that are facing all the American people,” Boehner said.
If the government’s $16.7 trillion statutory borrowing authority is not lifted by October 17, the Treasury will run out of money to pay its obligations and the country could fall into default, sending shock-waves through the global economy.
If Obama signs a short-term debt increase, without opening the government, he would be left to haggle with Republicans on the terms of a return to work of hundreds of thousands of federal workers who have been sent home without pay checks.
There was no immediate reaction to Boehner’s offer from the White House. But before he spoke, a White House official called on House Republicans to pass a bill to both reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without demanding ideological conditions.
“Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government,” the official said.
Once both tasks were accomplished, Obama would agree to talk to Republicans about a longer term budget and fiscal deal, the official said.