GOP moves toward six-week extension of $16.7T debt limit
By Ian Swanson and Russell Berman - 10/10/13 11:14 AM ET
House Republicans are moving toward a vote on a six-week extension of the nation’s debt limit as a way to buy time for more negotiations with President Obama.
GOP leaders discussed the proposal with their members at a conference meeting, with some aides saying a vote could come as soon as Thursday.
It is not clear if the hike to the $16.7 trillion debt limit would be completely "clean," meaning it would not demand concessions from Democrats. A clean hike would mark a significant concession to the White House.
It's also unclear if the House will end up including language in the bill to end the government shutdown that began its 10th day Thursday and has led to lower public approval ratings for Republicans.
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) said the Republican conference was divided on whether the measure should also allow the government to reopen.
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), exiting the meeting, predicted that whatever leadership brings to the floor would be approved.
Stocks soared on the news, with the Dow Jones average rising more than 180 points in early trading.
The administration has set an Oct. 17 deadline for raising the debt ceiling, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned senators Thursday a new recession could set in if the limit is not raised.
The warnings have raised the pressure on both sides to deal, but Republicans might feel especially under the gun given their falling public opinion ratings.
A survey from Gallup, released Wednesday, found the party had a 28 percent approval rating, a sharp 10-point drop in the last month and the worst rating Gallup had ever polled for a party.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced plans for a procedural vote Saturday on legislation to raise the debt ceiling by $1 trillion and through the end of 2014.
The White House backs the longer extension, but it is unclear whether Reid can muster the 60 votes necessary to pass it.
A White House official said Thursday that the administration was "willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward," while again insisting that Obama would "not pay a ransom" and preferred a longer debt-ceiling extension.
"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," the official said.
The official also said that Obama would be willing to negotiate a broader budget agreement only after Republicans pass a debt ceiling increase and reopen the government.
"We will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands," the official said.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) proposed a short-term extension of the debt ceiling in a meeting with conservative Republicans Wednesday.
Ryan argued the extension would give Republicans and the White House more time to negotiate a longer-term deal that could include entitlement reforms. He also suggested an exchange of entitlement reforms for ending some of the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. Members of both parties have criticized those cuts.
Ryan's proposal came a day after Obama said he could agree to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, if it was a "clean" extension.
Obama will meet Thursday afternoon with a group of House Republicans that will include Ryan. He is separately meeting with Senate Democrats Thursday.
Republicans in the House had been demanding that ObamaCare be defunded, and then delayed, in exchange for opening the government.
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, Ryan did not mention ObamaCare, a sign that GOP leaders are increasingly moving away from that strategy despite demands from some conservatives.
— This story was updated at 11:14 a.m.