U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Republicans may back a short-term debt-ceiling increase -- a notion the White House immediately rejected.
"We're discussing the possible virtue of a short-term debt-limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and the White House involved in [deficit-reduction] discussions in March," the Wisconsin Republican told reporters at the Kinsgmill Resort, a former Southern plantation near Williamsburg, Va.
House GOP lawmakers are holding their annual retreat at the resort. The Washington Times said the lawmakers hope to iron out divisions in their ranks ahead of another round of high-profile fights over spending and taxes.
Ryan's short-term option would make Washington face the current debt-ceiling crisis in two months, when it also faces $85 billion in across-the-board cuts in defense and domestic spending, delayed until March 1 in a New Year's Day "fiscal cliff" compromise.
In addition, a temporary joint congressional resolution funding government agencies and programs expires March 27.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has told House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the nation hit its borrowing limit at the end of 2012 and his department will run out of ways of avoiding a first-ever default between mid-February and early March.
Ryan said "the worst thing" that could happen to the economy "is for this Congress and this administration to do nothing to get our debt and deficits under control ... to move past these events that are occurring with no progress made on the debt and the deficit."
White House spokesman Jay Carney rejected the notion of raising the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling in the short term, saying postponing Congress' responsibility would create drama in Washington that will hurt the U.S. economy.
"There is a long tradition here of Congress acting to raise the debt ceiling," he told reporters. "This is a power that they've given themselves to do. And the point is -- without drama and delay. A monthly extension is drama.
"We're not going to negotiate over extending the debt ceiling," Carney said.
"Congress should simply extend the debt ceiling, and do so in a manner that causes no concern to the economy and to global markets, that does not in any way suggest that Washington is about to engage in another process that results in a self-inflicted wound to the economy," he said.
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