WASHINGTON Feb 7 Republicans who control the
U.S. House of Representatives have penciled in a possible vote
next week on legislation to raise the debt limit, a sign that
they are moving closer to deciding whether to try to attach
conditions to any increase.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Friday left a spot open
in his weekly House floor schedule for "possible consideration
of the legislation related to the debt limit" on Wednesday.
A temporary extension of the $17 trillion U.S. debt ceiling
expires at midnight on Friday, forcing the U.S. Treasury
Department to resort to extraordinary cash management measures
to ensure that it can continue to borrow to pay federal
But the Treasury has said it expects to exhaust these
measures by the end of the month, putting it at risk of missing
some payments if the ceiling is not lifted by then.
Cantor's schedule did not indicate a specific bill, or
whether any legislation would contain conditions or be the
"clean" increase sought by President Barack Obama.
Republicans say they oppose a "clean" increase without some
measures to reduce deficits or boost economic growth. But the
party has struggled to agree on a plan that can win Republican
support and still be accepted by Obama and the
Democratic-controlled Senate, who are insisting on an increase
without any conditions.
But unlike past episodes, lawmakers this time around are
largely steering clear of any default threats that could provoke
financial market turmoil.
"I'm confident that the United States is not going to
default on its debt, and we will resolve the need to increase
the borrowing authority of this country prior to any deadline
that the Treasury issues," Cantor said on Thursday on the House
An influential corporate chief executives group again
weighed in on the matter, urging congressional leaders in a
letter to swiftly pass a debt limit increase to avoid
uncertainty and a potential increase in borrowing costs.
"Any default by the federal government on its debts would
cause devastating, long-lasting effects for all Americans,"
wrote two top officers of the Business Roundtable, AT&T
Chairman Randall Stephenson and United Technologies
Chairman Louis Chenevert.
"Further, prolonged inaction that takes the government up to
the precipice would foster uncertainty, dampen consumer and
business confidence, risk higher borrowing costs, and could have
immediate consequences for hiring and investment," the
executives wrote in the letter released on Friday.
The House currently has only seven more legislative days
scheduled through the end of February in which to pass an
increase. The House will be out of session Feb 13-24 to
accommodate a retreat for Democratic members late next week and
a President's Day holiday recess the following week.