Boehner Pushes Short-Term Debt Ceiling Fix

An attempt to end the Washington impasse

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Win McNamee / Getty Images

Speaker of the House John Boehner on October 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.

House Speaker John Boehner asked Republican lawmakers Thursday to support a six-week extension of the country’s debt limit, a late attempt to head off a last-minute showdown that economists have warned could have dire consequences.

Boehner brought the proposal to his rank-and-file members during a Thursday morning meeting at the Capitol, before a group of House GOP leaders are set to visit President Barack Obama at the White House in the afternoon. Speaking to reporters after, Boehner said it was an effort to “move halfway to what [Obama’s] demanded.”

Boehner’s debt ceiling increase measure would be “clean” — that is, not conditioned on spending cuts or changes to Obama’s health care law, both of which Republicans have been fighting for during the continuing government shutdown and looming debt-limit crisis. It would not do anything to end the shutdown, now 10 days old. But a vote on the measure could come as early as Friday. Republicans made clear they want the extension to spark real negotiations on a larger budget deal, though it remained to be seen what forcing mechanisms would be included in any legislation.

“There is very little time left — we cannot waste any more time,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said. “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. And that includes a broad array of issues. We look forward to that happening.”

Democrats reacted to the news of a short-term escape from the Oct. 17 debt-limit deadline tepidly, but said they were willing to consider it.

“We will see if something like that could pass the House,” a Democratic aide said. “We would prefer something longer term to take away the uncertainty and constant crises, but as long as it’s a clean bill it would almost certainly be acceptable.”

President Obama has said he will sign a short term extension to avert a potentially damaging debt-limit crisis but that he will not negotiate on other policy proposals attached to any such extension.

“The President has made clear that he will not pay a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying our bills,” a White House official said Thursday. “It is better for economic certainty for Congress to take the threat of default off the table for as long as possible, which is why we support the Senate Democrats’ efforts to raise the debt limit for a year with no extraneous political strings attached.”

-Alex Rogers contributed reporting

9 comments
j45ashton
j45ashton

This phrase "Kick The Can Down the Road" has been used in some kinds of demagoguery without the reasons for deadlock explained.  

The debt problem comes down to money.  And if you're thinking about entitlements, better think again.  

Social Security has been designated reasonably solvent for decades to come, It's not the problem.  Basically we're talking about Medicaid & Medicare.  Medicaid recipients have no money...so you can't raise their premiums.  They're already living in large wards with bathroom facilities that offer little or no privacy.  Cut funds to Medicaid & these people are almost out on the street.  Democrats will never agree to block grants to the states because they're too afraid of the money being misappropriated & it's not even clear how block grants would save significant money.  

That leaves Medicare.  Payments to doctors & hospitals have already been cut & some doctors have indeed started dropping out of Medicare.  So what's left.  Democrats will never cut basic benefits & people don't want their benefits cut.  For Democrats, this either means higher taxes,  higher Medicare premiums or both.  So Paul Ryan will propose his old plan again which is a non-starter.  But take a look at what Ryan's plan means.  He wants to give a set voucher amount to people over 65 and have them get their own insurance.  Guaranteed the voucher amount will not cover the full cost of insurance.  You'll have to pay more.  For those who want insurance, this is just like raising taxes in that people will have to pay more for coverage.  Except instead of spreading the amount through general taxation, in effect this becomes a burden just on the elderly.  But some people would take the voucher money & just bank it.  So what happens when they get seriously sick?  They go through their money & then the rest of us wind up paying for their treatment either through higher hospital charges for everyone, Medicaid or both.  So there’s no escape from paying more in Ryan’s plan either except a lot of the immediate burden would be placed on those over 65.  The Democrats will never agree to it.  So they're stuck.  And there are no easy answers especially for politicians who want to get re-elected who are dealing with an electorate that will vote against any  messenger bearing bad news.  Nobody wants to pay more taxes.  Especially when the distribution of wealth here has become so skewed & middle class incomes have become stagnant over the last 30 years.

Our national debt isn't a recent phenomenon.  We still owe money going back to WWII.  Some debt is a good thing.  People like buying bonds and receiving fixed, dependable income from the government.  But we have amassed too much debt.  Everyone agrees about that.  So if more discretionary spending is out and there won't be any significant changes to Medicaid & Medicare (and believe me, there won't be), how are we going to pay off the national debt down to acceptable levels?   The government needs a lot more money to pay down the debt; that part is simple.  But where's it going to come from? 

stevek77536
stevek77536

It is depressing that people with this mentality are running our country.  Just one self-inflicted crisis after another, and in between they just sit back and spew bile at each other.  All the while enjoying their gold plated perks like premium health insurance, large staffs of lackeys and "spokesmen",  and a growing net worth while that of most Americans fell.

swagger
swagger

during the short term funded period talk budget cuts--DOD, NSA, CIA, DHS, TSA, etc.  cut out subsidies and tax exempt status to all nonprofits including the NFL.

cut the welfare checks to the states payng less tax than they receive from the federal government and quit taking more from successful blue states.  not one cent in cuts without a cent increase in revenue especially the ulta rich who get that preferred romney/buffet 15% or less rate.  how do large and solidly profitable corporations avoud paying so much in taxes.  subsidies to agro business? why?

the president and congressional members have plenty to negotiate but a small minority should not set the agenda.

WienersPeener
WienersPeener

6-weeks? WTF! Do your gawwwwdamn job you orange stuffed-suit and bring ur gang of tea-fackerz in line. That is all.

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

To what end a 6 week "fix" that really doesn't fix anything?

Having taken a huge hit for precipitating the crisis and now showing impressive intransigence, the Republicans want to take the pressure off ... without resolving anything.  

Boehner has demonstrated impressive lack of leadership, dereliction of duty to the office of Speaker, spinelessness in the face of the tantrums thrown by a small number of his caucus and then impressive hypocrisy for trying to blame others -- almost any others seemed to do (the President, Harry Reid, the Democrats, you name it) -- for his own failings and those of his party.

He deserves to be minority leader in the House.  In that position, his cowardice will be less of an impediment to government.

MrObvious
MrObvious

 “We will see if something like that could pass the House,” a Democratic aide said. ”We would prefer something longer term to take away the uncertainty and constant crises, but as long as it’s a clean bill it would almost certainly be acceptable.”

If it continues the  uncertainty and constant crises, then why is it almost certainly acceptable?


tom.litton
tom.litton

@j45ashtonThere is an easier and obvious solution.  Just google "How to make healthcare cheaper"

Make healthcare cheaper, and both medicare and medicaid get cheaper.

I'm not saying its a silver bullet, but it is the best place to start.

yogi
yogi

@DavidStrayer It potentially ruins Congress's Christmas and New Years, so at least the rest of the country gets something out of it.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@MrObvious Because the alternative is certain crisis?

Besides, Obama can ask for a clean debt ceiling raise over and over again, and then veto it.  Yes i get the difference, but most people won't.

Besides the republican's may still screw it up by attaching pre-conditions to the super committee they want, like no new spending or taxes, or requiring entitlement cuts or something.