Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could unveil the measure to raise the debt ceiling as early as Tuesday, setting the table for a test vote later in the week
The stalemate over US federal shutdown continued for the eighth day with President Barack Obama asking Congress to reopen the government and raise the US debt limit and the Republicans insisting on negotiations first.
“My very strong suspicion is there are enough votes there” to pass legislation, Mr. Obama said on Monday, challenging Republican House Speaker John Boehner to call an immediate vote on a “clean” spending bill.
As a possible national default loomed closer, Senate Democrats planned to introduce a stand-alone measure to increase the government’s borrowing cap, challenging Republicans to a showdown that could unnerve financial markets.
Economists say a first-ever U.S. default could trigger a financial crisis and recession that would echo 2008 or worse. The 2008 financial crisis plunged the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
A spokesman said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could unveil the measure to raise the debt ceiling as early as Tuesday, setting the table for a test vote later in the week. The measure is expected to provide enough borrowing room to last beyond next year’s election, which means it will likely permit $1 trillion or more in new borrowing above the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling that the administration says will be hit on Oct. 17.
Stocks got a case of the jitters on Wall Street where the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.5 percent. Halfway around the world China stressed the importance for the international economy of raising the U.S. debt limit.
“Safeguarding the debt is of vital importance to the economy of the U.S. and the world,” Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said, according to the official Xinhua news agency. China holds $1.277 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, second only to Japan.
Democrats from Obama on down to the most junior lawmakers say the Republican-controlled House should vote immediately on ending the partial closure of the government. Obama said House Speaker John Boehner “doesn’t apparently want to see the ... shutdown end at the moment, unless he’s able to extract concessions that don’t have anything to do with the budget.”
Mr. Boehner, in rebuttal, called on Mr. Obama to agree to negotiations on changes in the health care law, popularly known as “Obamacare,” and steps to curb deficits, the principal Republican demands for ending the shutdown that began with the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, and eliminating the threat of default. “Really, Mr. President. It’s time to have that conversation before our economy is put further at risk,” Boehner said on the House floor.
It’s unclear if Mr. Reid’s effort to raise the debt ceiling will work. Republicans are expected to oppose the measure if it doesn’t contain budget cuts to make a dent in the federal deficit. The question is whether Senate Republicans will use a legislative procedural manoeuvre known as a filibuster to block a final vote on Mr. Reid’s measure.
Until recently, debt limit increases have not been the target of a Senate filibuster. Many Republicans in the Senate have voted for so-called clean debt limit increases during Republican administrations, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The White House has said repeatedly the president will not negotiate with Republicans until the government is fully reopened and the debt limit has been raised. But it hasn’t said the debt limit measure has to be completely “clean” of add-ons.
White House aide Jason Furman told reporters that the White House could accept some add-ons if Mr. Boehner “needs to have some talking point for his caucus that’s consistent with us not negotiating ... that’s not adding a bunch of extraneous conditions.”
Another White House official, Gene Sperling, said the administration could be open to an interim, short-term debt limit extension to prevent a catastrophic default.
Republicans were sticking with a strategy of trying to pin the blame for the shutdown on Mr. Obama for being unwilling to negotiate. The House also passed legislation on Monday to reopen the Food and Drug Administration, the latest in a series of piecemeal funding bills to advance through the Republican-controlled chamber, only to be blocked in the House of Representatives.
It’s been commonly assumed that Republicans would suffer politically from the shutdown and the early polling data seems to bear that out.
A survey released on Monday by The Washington Post and ABC News said disapproval of Republican handling of the budget showdown was measured at 70 percent, up from 63 percent a week earlier. Disapproval of Mr. Obama’s role was statistically unchanged at 51 percent.
The current standoff is the latest in a string of clashes over the past three years between Mr. Obama and a House Republican majority that has steered to the right with the rise of the conservative, anti-tax tea party movement.
Most Democrats and many Republicans have assumed the Republicans will pay a heavier price for a shutdown than the Democrats, since that was the case during the last government shutdown in 1995-1996.
A survey released by the Washington Post-ABC said disapproval of Republicans was measured at 70 percent, up from 63 percent a week earlier. Disapproval of Mr. Obama’s role was statistically unchanged at 51 percent.
Keywords: U.S. government shutdown, Barack Obama, Obamacare, Republican Tea party, Ted Cruz, House Republican Speaker, John Boehner, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, clean spending bill