WASHINGTON: Republican House Speaker John Boehner vowed yesterday not to raise the US debt ceiling without a "serious conversation" about what is behind it, while Democrats said it was reckless to raise the possibility of a US default.
"The nation's credit is at risk because of the administration's refusal to sit down and have a conversation," Boehner said, adding that there were not enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass a "clean" debt limit bill, without any conditions attached.
Asked if that meant the US was headed towards a default if President Barack Obama does not negotiate, Boehner said: "That's the path we're on."
Boehner's comments appeared to mark an escalation since last week when he was reported to have told Republicans privately that he would bring a vote to the floor on a clean debt limit bill if necessary.
Republicans and Democrats also traded blame for a shutdown that has brought much of the government to a standstill for nearly a week. With no end in sight, the battle over funding the government looks like it will merge with the one over the debt ceiling, which must be raised by October 17 to avoid default.
Republicans are seeking concessions in exchange for raising the nation's $16.7 trillion (R166.7 trillion) debt limit. If the borrowing cap is not increased, the US could go into default, with what officials and economists say would be seriously damaging consequences for the US and global economies.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned of serious consequences "if we were to have the unthinkable happen, to have the US default".
"It is irresponsible and it is reckless to take that chance, which is why Congress needs to act," he said.
Pressed on Obama's vow not to negotiate over the debt limit, Lew said: "The president has always been looking for a way to negotiate, to find that reasonable middle ground, with a bipartisan group of members and senators to do the right thing for the American people ... He put out a budget that actually took an enormous step to do that. So the president is open to negotiation." - Reuters
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Original headline: US crisis as politicians refuse to budge
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