WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders are proposing a six week increase in the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling as a way of avoiding a first-ever U.S. default on debts.
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If there is enough support within the party, the House could vote as early as Thursday evening according to two GOP sources familiar with the plan. The sources declined to be named because the plan had not yet been endorsed by the Republican caucus. Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio) proposed the plan to the full Republican conference Thursday morning. The plan would extend the debt ceiling to Nov. 22.
The decision to seek approval for a short-term increase is in part because President Obama and congressional Democrats have declined to engage with Republicans in budget talks. The Treasury says the nation will hit its debt ceiling Oct. 17 and would begin defaulting on debts shortly thereafter.
Democrats have said they will only negotiate after Republicans vote to increase the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, now in its tenth day.
Boehner said Republicans' decision to move a clean increase was a way of meeting Obama halfway. "It's time for leadership. It's time for these negotiations to begin," he said.
Responding to reports of the GOP plan for a short-term debt limit increase, a White House official said Thursday, "It is better for economic certainty for Congress to take the threat of default off the table for as long as possible, which is why we support the Senate Democrats' efforts to raise the debt limit for a year with no extraneous political strings attached. The President also believes that the Republican Leadership in the House should allow for an up or down vote on the clean continuing resolution passed by the Senate that would pass with a bipartisan majority to reopen the government." The official did not want to by name because the discussions are still ongoing within the GOP.
Boehner will lead a team of 18 GOP lawmakers headed to the White House Thursday afternoon to meet privately with the president.
"We're coming there with the idea of working together. We're coming there with the idea of common ground," said Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Republican Senators have been invited to the White House for similar talks Friday morning.