Seven days into a U.S. government shutdown and 10 days out from a possible U.S. default, Democrats and Republicans are still nowhere close to a fix. In fact, the words being traded aren’t the kindest, and House Speaker John Boehner’s promise not to let America default is covered in uncertainty.
Democrats called Boehner’s credibility into question on Monday, after his Sunday appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” when he said there aren’t enough votes to pass a “clean” continuing resolution -- a temporary funding bill -- to reopen the government and put the 800,000 furloughed federal workers back on the job. The holdup remains the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Democrats want the health care law protected, and say they are open to improving it, but not as part of a deal to reopen the government or increase the debt limit. Republicans want to defund it, or at least delay parts of the law, since they failed to repeal it.
Reports are that close to 200 House Democrats are ready to back a “clean” bill in order to break up the gridlock. Those Democratic votes could be joined by at least 20 House Republicans who have said they will do the same.
Still, Boehner insisted, “There may be a back room somewhere, but there’s nobody in it.”
Adam Jentleson, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blasted the speaker in a statement, saying Boehner has a “credibility problem.”
“From refusing to let the House vote on a bill that was his idea in the first place, to decrying health-care subsidies for members of Congress and staff that he worked for months to preserve, to stating that the House doesn’t have the votes to pass a clean [continuing resolution] at current spending levels, there is now a consistent pattern of Speaker Boehner saying things that fly in the face of the facts or stand at odds with his past actions,” Jentleson said. “Americans across the country are suffering because Speaker Boehner refuses to come to grips with reality. Speaker Boehner should stop the games and let the House vote on the Senate’s clean CR so that the entire federal government can re-open within twenty-four hours.”
The relationship between Reid and Boehner remains tense. Boehner’s relationship with President Barack Obama isn’t much better. The leaders of each chamber of Congress met with Obama last week, but left with little progress, as Democrats say they are willing to go to conference but not under these threatening conditions.
“So it’s my way or the highway,” Boehner said of Obama's approach. “That’s what he’s saying. Complete surrender and then we’ll talk to you.”
On A Path To Default
The U.S. Treasury has an Oct. 17 deadline for raising the near $17 trillion borrowing limit.
Obama has warned that failure to increase the limit will result in America becoming a “deadbeat” because the Treasury will not have money to pay bondholders who have lent the government money. The president said he will not negotiate on the full faith and credit of the U.S. Boehner has said he will not allow the U.S. to default. However, in order to do just that, there must be a “serious conversation” about the issue, the speaker said.
“My goal here is not to have the United States default on their debt,” Boehner told “This Week.” “My goal here is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and driving the debt up. And the president’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation at risk of default.”
Still, an agreement appears distant, and there could actually be a default.
“That’s the path we’re on,” Boehner said.
“I don’t want the United States to default on its debt,” he later added. “But I’m not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up. It would be irresponsible of me to do this.”
The speaker also said there aren’t enough votes in the House to pass a clean debt limit.
A huge confrontation over the debt limit in August 2011 came to a last-minute end only after the repeated warning of an economic disaster spooked the market. The U.S. credit rating was downgraded.
Nevertheless, Moody’s CEO Raymond McDaniel told CNBC, “It is extremely unlikely that the Treasury is not going to continue to pay on those securities.”