Boehner: U.S. Headed for Default if Obama Doesn’t Negotiate

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Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 6 2013 1:20 PM

Boehner: U.S. Headed for Default if Obama Doesn’t Negotiate

There had recently been hints that after the government shutdown, House Republicans would give a bit of ground when it came to the debt ceiling. President Obama himself seemed to suggest this in a recent interview with the Associated Press. But on Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner made it clear on ABC News that he is standing firm, insisting that Republican lawmakers would not approve a clean increase in the country’s debt limit without concessions from Democrats. Same goes for a government funding bill that could reopen the government. His statements appeared to contradict earlier reports that claimed Boehner had told Republicans behind closed doors he would ultimately allow a vote on the debt limit to move forward, points out the New York Times.

“We’re interested in having a conversation about how we open the government and how we begin to pay our bills. But it begins with a simple conversation,” Boehner said on ABC News. "The nation's credit is at risk because of the administration's refusal to sit down and have a conversation." Boehner insisted that even though he does not want a default, “I'm not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up.” When he was asked whether that meant the United States was headed toward a default, Boehner answered: “That’s the path we’re on.”

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Later on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Charles Schumer called Boehner’s bluff, saying he did not believe the House speaker’s claims that there aren’t enough votes to reopen the government without preconditions. Schumer also said he believed Boehner would ultimately allow a debt limit vote because he doesn’t want to be responsible for the financial chaos that would ensue. And while Democrats are happy to negotiate, “we want to negotiate without a gun to our head,” Schumer said.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew went on four Sunday talk shows to warn that the United States will default if Congress fails to pass a debt ceiling increase by Oct. 17. “Congress is playing with fire if they don't extend the debt limit,” Lew said on CNN. “We've never gotten to the point where the United States government has operated without the ability to borrow. It's very dangerous. It's reckless, because the reality is, there are no good choices if we run out of borrowing capacity and we run out of cash.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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