WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner planned to ask fractious Republican lawmakers on Thursday to support a six-week extension of the government's ability to borrow money, even as Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Congress of "irrevocable damage" that an unprecedented federal default would risk.
Boehner, R-0hio, was expected to broach the plan at a private morning meeting of GOP House legislators, just hours before he and other Republican leaders were traveling to the White House to discuss their budget battle with President Barack Obama.
Aides, who discussed the proposal only on condition of anonymity, did not say whether Republicans would attach any other provisions to the debt limit extension.
Obama has said he would sign a short-term extension, but not if it contained other language that he opposes, and wants Congress to send him a bill unconditionally ending the partial government shutdown as well. Republicans have said they want deficit reduction and cuts in government programs, including Obama's 2010 health care law, to be included.
The House GOP meeting in a basement room of the Capitol came on the 10th day of a partial federal shutdown and one week before the Obama administration has said the government will deplete its ability to borrow money. Most economists say the federal default that could result would deal a staggering blow to the world economy, though some Republicans have said the damage would be manageable.
Earlier Thursday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned the Senate Finance Committee that failure to renew the government's ability to borrow money "could be deeply damaging" to financial markets and threaten Americans' jobs and savings. It would also leave the government unsure of when it could make payments ranging from food aid to Medicare reimbursements to doctors, he said.
"The United States should not be put in a position of making such perilous choices for our economy and our citizens," the secretary said. "There is no way of knowing the irrevocable damage such an approach would have on our economy and financial markets."
The game of Washington chicken over increasing the debt limit — required so Treasury can borrow more money to pay the government's bills in full and on time — already has sent the stock market south, spiked the interest rate for one-month Treasury bills and prompted Fidelity Investments, the nation's largest manager of money market mutual funds, to sell federal debt that comes due around the time the nation could hit its borrowing limit.
Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.