WASHINGTON--House Republican leaders are proposing a six week increase in the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling as a way of avoiding a first-ever U.S. default on debts.
If there is enough support within the party, the House could vote as early as Thursday evening according to two GOP sources familiar with the plan. The sources declined to be named because the plan had not yet been endorsed by the Republican caucus. Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio) proposed the plan to the full Republican conference Thursday morning. The plan would extend the debt ceiling to Nov. 22.
The decision to seek approval for a short-term increase is in part because President Obama and congressional Democrats have declined to engage with Republicans in budget talks. The Treasury says the nation will hit its debt ceiling Oct. 17 and would begin defaulting on debts shortly thereafter.
Democrats have said they will only negotiate after Republicans vote to increase the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, now in its tenth day.
Boehner said Republicans' decision to move a clean increase was a way of meeting Obama halfway. "It's time for leadership. It's time for these negotiations to begin," he said.
Responding to reports of the GOP plan for a short-term debt limit increase, 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. The President also believes that the Republican Leadership in the House should allow for an up or down vote on the clean continuing resolution passed by the Senate that would pass with a bipartisan majority to reopen the government." The official did not want to by name because the discussions are still ongoing within the GOP.
Boehner will lead a team of 18 GOP lawmakers headed to the White House Thursday afternoon to meet privately with the president.
"We're coming there with the idea of working together. We're coming there with the idea of common ground," said Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Republican Senators have been invited to the White House for similar talks Friday morning.
Republicans initially said they would not raise the debt ceiling without an agreement to delay or defund President Obama's signature health care law. Obama has said he would not negotiate over the health care law or other budget issues until the government is re-opened and the debt ceiling is raised.
Obama has also indicated he would sign a short-term spending plan and debt ceiling increase -- but hasn't said what he would do if the issues were split up.
In a press conference Tuesday, the president said,"The only thing that our democracy can't afford is a situation where one side says, unless I get my way, and only my way, unless I get concessions before we even start having a serious give-and-take, I'll threaten to shut down the government or I will threaten to not pay America's bills."
Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, would not say if the White House would agree to go along with such an arrangement, but stated plainly that White House believes "longer is better."
"The Senate has a plan to do it for a year," Furman told reporters at an event hosted by the liberal Center for American Progress on Tuesday morning. "That's better for certainty. That is better for everything. We didn't negotiate in January and give any concessions in exchange for it. We are not negotiating now. And so whatever debt limit increase they pass we're not negotiating that either. They will have established a track record of raising the debt limit without negotiating and without getting concessions and getting ransom for it. And we will have further established that track record, and we'll be back in the same place in whatever amount of time from now. And our position will be exactly the same."