House Has 6 Working Days Left To Raise Debt Ceiling

With time running short, House Republicans held a caucus meeting Monday night to map out their plan to deal with the debt limit. Speaker John Boehner last week indicated he would need Democratic votes to pass a debt limit increase because he was not likely to get enough Republican votes to reach a majority.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The U.S. Treasury is now in its fourth day of resorting to what it calls extraordinary measures to ensure all the nation's bills get paid. Officials estimate they can keep doing that for only 16 more days without risking a default on the debt. But the House of Representatives has only six working days left to raise the debt ceiling, and this morning, House Republicans were back behind closed doors, gauging support for a plan to do that. NPR's David Welna as at the capital, and he joins us know with the latest.

Good morning.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: House leaders have had weeks to come up with a plan to deal with the debt limit. Now, the day before they want to leave town for a break, it appears they've essentially decided to throw in the towel. Is that right?

WELNA: Yeah. That's one way of putting it. House Republican leaders announced at a closed-door meeting this morning that they plan to bring a bill to the House floor tomorrow morning, raising the debt ceiling, and they're going to do it with no conditions attached. And that's exactly what President Obama and congressional Democrats have been demanding. They had no intention this time to negotiate the Treasury's ability to borrow to pay for spending that Congress has already approved.

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters after the meeting that he, for one, intends to vote for this so-called clean hike in the debt ceiling that may appeal to Democrats, but it won't get much support from most Republicans.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: It's the fact that we don't have 218 votes. And when you don't have 218 votes, you have nothing. We've seen that before, and we'll see it again.

MONTAGNE: Well, as late as last night, it appeared that Speaker John Boehner aimed to add other measures to the bill. Now that appears to be gone?

WELNA: Well, you know, he really could not find any additional measures that would get enough Republicans to vote for raising the debt ceiling without making the deal completely unacceptable to the Democratically controlled Senate. So, he punted, and he now has to get at least 18 other House Republicans to vote with him - and the Democrats - for that clean debt ceiling bill to pass.

MONTAGNE: Now, House Republicans were able to get more than $2 trillion worth of spending cuts as part of a debt ceiling deal two-and-a-half years ago. What happened to that clout?

WELNA: It's gone. I think the blowback they got from the government shutdown last fall convinced them it was not in their interests to spark another crisis on Capitol Hill, especially during this election year. And beyond that, there's just a lot less concern now over a shrinking deficit than there was when Boehner insisted on and got a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar the debt ceiling was raised two-and-a-half years ago.

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, watch this space. NPR congressional correspondent David Welna, thanks very much.

WELNA: You're welcome, Renee.

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