WASHINGTON Oct 12 President Barack Obama
pressured Republican lawmakers on Saturday to agree to raise the
U.S. debt ceiling for longer than they would prefer, as their
fiscal impasse dragged into the weekend with five days left to
find a deal.
The budget battle between Obama and Republicans who control
the House of Representatives has idled hundreds of thousands of
government workers hit by a 12-day government shutdown and put
the United States at risk of a historic debt default, possibly
by next Thursday, unless the borrowing limit is raised.
With the potential of an economic calamity looming, Obama
and his Republican opponents are trying to agree on how long to
extend the debt ceiling, with Republicans wanting to limit the
extension to six weeks to try force more concessions out of the
Obama made clear in his weekly address Saturday that he
wants a longer debt ceiling extension to get the U.S. economy
through the holiday shopping season without a convulsive shock.
Republicans want a commitment to broader deficit-reduction talks
from the White House.
"It wouldn't be wise, as some suggest, to kick the debt
ceiling can down the road for a couple of months, and flirt with
a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the
holiday shopping season," Obama said.
While Obama's talks with House Republicans on Thursday and
Senate Republicans on Friday were seen as a constructive sign of
progress, there appears to be still a ways to go and many
details to iron out before a deal can be clinched.
North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven said there are
enough ideas being discussed to get to an agreement, but the key
now is finding the right combination of them that can pass both
the House and Democratic-controlled Senate.
"I do think it's going to take a few days here to get that
right combination, but I'm hopeful we'll get a deal," Hoeven
He said Republicans are willing to lift the debt ceiling and
end the shutdown but want to make sure that government spending
is cut - something they have been trying to negotiate with the
White House for months without success.
"I want to see the government get opened and I want to see a
debt-ceiling solution. But we've got to use this time as well to
find some savings and reforms, and we are talking about what
savings and reforms we can get people to agree to," he said.
Republicans have been knocked on their heels by polls
showing Americans largely blame them for triggering the crisis,
a political dynamic that has strengthened Obama's hand. The
president has been unyielding in his insistence that he will not
negotiate over the debt ceiling.
Obama told Americans that his Republican opponents are
manufacturing a crisis that has the potential for damaging the
U.S. credit rating and causing global markets to go haywire.
"Our government is closed for the first time in 17 years. A
political party is risking default for the first time since the
1700s. This is not normal. That's why we have to put a stop to
it," he said.
House Republicans will meet at the Capitol on Saturday
morning to discuss their options after sending the White House a
proposal that included the short-term increase in the debt limit
that would clear the way for re-opening the government.
The House Republican proposal called for cuts in entitlement
programs like the Medicare health plan for seniors to replace
two years of the automatic spending cuts known as
"sequestration" agreed to last year by Congress, senior
congressional aides said.
California Republican Representative Buck McKeon, chairman
of the House Armed Services Committee, said in the Republican
weekly address that his party is standing on some important
"It's about stemming the tide of debt and deficits that
threatens to wash out an entire generation's opportunities," he