Countdown To Debt-Ceiling Deadline

It's another working weekend for the leaders of Congress as the debt-ceiling clock counts down toward Aug. 2. Host Guy Raz gets the Capitol Hill side of the story from NPR's David Welna.

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GUY RAZ, host: Let's go to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue now to NPR's David Welna, who is at the Capitol. David, what are congressional leaders saying about those meetings today?

DAVID WELNA: Congressional leaders have really tried to avoid making any statements about what's going on in the talks, and maybe because they don't have that much to share with us at this point. There was another meeting late in the afternoon in Speaker Boehner's office with Minority Leader McConnell, Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader Pelosi. Pelosi and Reid left the meeting sort of stony-faced afterwards and said nothing. But Reid put out a statement beforehand saying that neither he nor Pelosi would agree to a short-term arrangement. So it looks like that's what's in the works right now.

RAZ: David, there's been talk about some kind of deal where Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, Republican leader, that's behind this idea that essentially Republicans will vote against a debt ceiling limit. The president would then veto it, and that would allow him to raise it. Does there seem to be support for that kind of idea, at least in the House?

WELNA: No. In the House, there is definite opposition to that idea. There is support in the Senate on both sides of the aisle for that. But because that is a solution that does not have the corresponding spending cuts for every dollar that the debt ceiling has increased, many House Republicans say they would not vote for it. In fact, 87 of them have sent a letter to the top two Republicans leaders in the House saying do not support this and do not bring it to the floor.

RAZ: David, there are some congressional Republicans who say they won't vote for a debt limit increase under any circumstances. Could you imagine a scenario where you've got sort of a coalition of some House Republicans and House Democrats essentially putting this over the top?

WELNA: Well, it would have to be something that would have something in it for both sides of the aisle, and that's really what they're looking for right now. There is a recognition that there has to be deficit reduction accompanying an increase in the debt ceiling, if only to prevent the ratings agencies from downgrading U.S. Treasury. That's a real danger that people in both parties recognize is out there.

And I think that there's a recognition now that they are dangerously close to the edge. In terms of trying to get something through the Senate, you need - if there's opposition to a piece of legislation - you need at least 120 hours of debate to get a single piece of legislation through. That really means that they have to have something on the floor of the House no later than Wednesday and get it to the Senate by Wednesday night if they're going to make the August 2nd deadline.

RAZ: Wow. The clock is ticking. That's NPR's David Welna from Capitol Hill. David, thank you.

WELNA: You're welcome.

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