WASHINGTON Democrats in Congress will not negotiate with Republicans demanding concessions in exchange for raising the U.S. debt ceiling, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee said on Friday.
"We will not negotiate over whether or not the United States of America should pay its bills," Senator Patty Murray said in a letter to colleagues. "And once again, before they get any further down this damaging path, we call on our Republican colleagues to not play politics with our economic recovery."
The United States is expected to reach the debt ceiling in late February and debt-limit fights have proven costly in the past, helping cost the United States its top-tier credit rating from Standard and Poor's in 2011.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said his fellow Republicans will not pass a debt increase without some concessions from Democrats.
"The Speaker has said that we should not default on our debt, or even get close to it, but a 'clean' debt limit increase simply won't pass in the House. We hope and expect the White House and Senate Democrats will work with us on a timely, fiscally responsible solution," Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, said in a statement.
Some of the demands Republicans are considering include expanding offshore energy production, small changes in President Barack Obama's healthcare law and approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Obama has vowed not to negotiate over raising the debt limit, arguing that it is Congress' responsibility to ensure that its spending obligations can be paid.
House Republicans likely will formulate their conditions for an increase in U.S. borrowing authority next week at a retreat in Maryland.
"We hope that coming out of this meeting, they will agree to build on the bipartisan budget work done so far, join Democrats in passing a clean debt ceiling bill, and focus on the real long and short-term challenges facing the families and communities we serve," Murray said.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Stephen Powell)