U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has been telling fellow Republicans that he won’t allow the U.S. to default on its debt, even if that requires Democratic votes, according to two Republican congressional aides.
Boehner has been meeting with Republicans privately as he and other party leaders seek to come up with a plan to end the partial U.S. government shutdown and raise the debt limit. Party leaders are trying to package other Republican priorities with a debt-ceiling increase for a vote as soon as next week.
“Speaker Boehner has always said that the United States will not default on its debt, but if we’re going to raise the debt limit, we need to deal with the drivers of our debt and deficits,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in a statement today. “That’s why we need a bill with cuts and reforms to get our economy moving again.”
Republicans have a 232-200 majority in the U.S. House, meaning that the party can lose 15 votes from party members on any measure without seeking Democratic support.
Last month, Boehner outlined a debt-limit increase strategy that also included lighter regulations, cuts in entitlement programs and approval of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline.
The outline included means-testing Medicare, reducing the changes to malpractice law and eliminating social services block grants. Also being considered was a proposal to eliminate a requirement that gives regulators authority to seize and dismantle financial firms if their failure could damage the stability of the U.S. financial system.
Some Republican lawmakers, such as Representatives Paul Broun of Georgia and Mo Brooks of Alabama, said the plan didn’t do enough to cut spending, and Boehner shelved it in favor of focusing on a bill to fund the government and curb the Affordable Care Act.
Inside the party, every move Boehner makes to satisfy spending hard-liners risks losing the support of Republicans such as Peter King of New York and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, who support a stopgap spending bill without conditions.
On several fiscal issues, including the 2011 debt-limit increase and the lapse of tax cuts at the end of 2012, Boehner united Republicans around partisan bills to set a party position and then allowed a bipartisan vote on final deals reached by senators of both parties and President Barack Obama.
In both cases, the first version that passed the House received fewer than 20 Democratic votes and the final versions were backed by at least half of the Democrats.
The U.S. Treasury Department says the government will run out of borrowing authority Oct. 17. It will then have a cash balance that will run out between Oct. 22 and Oct. 31, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Treasury Department issued a report today saying that the effects of failing to raise the debt ceiling would be catastrophic and could start a deep recession.
“The speaker’s said over and over again there’s no intention to default,” Representative James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, told reporters. “I don’t think there’s energy in the Republican conference to have any kind of default.”
Obama says he won’t negotiate about attaching policy conditions to the debt limit.
“The American people are not pawns in some political game,” he said today in Rockville, Maryland. “You don’t get to demand some ransom in exchange for keeping the government running. You don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for keeping the economy running.”