* Democrats seek to avoid replay of 2011 fight
* Republicans show no willingness to back down
* Does 14th Amendment empower president to lift ceiling?
By Rachelle Younglai and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Jan 11 Top Democratic senators urged
President Barack Obama on Friday to be ready to raise the debt
ceiling without congressional approval in order to avert a
damaging debt default.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his leadership team
said Obama should use "any lawful steps" under his authority to
"ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a
global economic crisis."
They urged Obama to act on his own if Republicans insist on
a debt limit extension that is coupled with "unbalanced or
unreasonable" spending cuts.
Democrats are anticipating another possible deadlock over
the debt limit in Congress and hope a unilateral move, or the
threat of one, by Obama would avoid a replay of the 2011 fight
that pushed the country to the brink of default.
Obama has vowed not to negotiate with Republicans on the
Republican reaction to Reid's letter showed no willingness
to back down from their demands that spending cuts be part of
the debt limit debate.
"The Democrat leadership hiding under their desks and hoping
the president will find a way around the law on the nation's
maxed-out credit card is not only the height of
irresponsibility, but also a guarantee that our national debt
crisis will only get worse," said Senate Republican leader Mitch
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House of Representatives
Speaker John Boehner, said, "The American people will not
tolerate an increase in the debt limit without spending cuts and
Some analysts and Democrats believe the 14th Amendment of
the Constitution gives the president the authority to raise the
$16.4 trillion debt ceiling unilaterally.
That provision states the validity of government debt shall
not be questioned. But the White House has so far ruled it out.
One Senate Democratic aide said other legal options were being
The U.S. Treasury is shuffling funds around to continue
paying government bills. Those accounting maneuvers are due to
run their course around mid-February.
"We believe that you must make clear that you will never
allow our nation's economy and reputation to be held hostage,"
said the letter, signed by Reid and the three other leading
Republicans have said they will only approve a debt ceiling
increase if it is accompanied by spending cuts and changes to
big government programs Social Security and Medicare.
The Democratic leaders agreed that the borrowing cap
increase should be separate from a deficit reduction plan. They
said any fiscal deal should include spending cuts as well as
additional revenue from the wealthy and the elimination of
certain tax breaks.