In his recent interview with ABC’s “This Week,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters: “The nation’s credit is at risk because of the administration’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation.”
The Republican went on, adding that there were not enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass a “clean” debt limit bill, without any additional conditions and terms.
When the Speaker was asked whether that meant the country was getting closer to a default if President Barack Obama did not negotiate ahead of an October 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling, Boehner replied: “That’s the path we’re on.”
Boehner’s remarks highlight growing tensions since late last week when the Speaker reportedly told Republicans in a private meeting that he would work to avoid default, even if it meant relying on the votes of Democrats.
Both parties traded blame for a shutdown that left more than 800,000 federal employees without work. As it’s still not known when the work of the government will be restored, the battle over its funding has merged into the one over the debt ceiling.
“I don’t want the United States to default on its debt,” Boehner said. “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.”
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has previously spoken of serious consequences if “the unthinkable” were to happen and the United States defaulted. “It is irresponsible and it is reckless to take that chance, which is why Congress needs to act,” he told reporters.
“On the 17th we run out of our ability to borrow, and Congress is playing with fire,” he added. “There is no option that prevents us from being in default if we don’t pay our bills.”
Lew also said that the president’s administration has determined that it does not have the right and authority to raise the debt ceiling on its own, as some Democratic lawmakers have suggested.
“There’s a desire here for there to be some kind of a magic solution. There’s an easy solution: a majority in Congress would do the right thing if given a chance to open the government. A majority in Congress would do the right thing if given a chance to let us pay our bills.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer admitted that he was pretty sure that the Speaker would not let the country go into default, as it would lead to chaos on financial markets, freeze lines of credit and cause a jump in interest rates, reports Reuters.
“I believe Speaker Boehner will not do that when push comes to shove,” Schumer said, adding that Boehner and Republicans would be forced “sooner or later” to stand up to the “hard right” in their party and give in. “They will have to back off.”