House Speaker John Boehner said today that he and his GOP members are “still looking for the pieces to this puzzle” to resolve a deadlock over the debt ceiling. But he was emphatic in stating, “We don’t want to default on our debt and we’re not going to default on the debt.”
Boehner also told reporters that he takes Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at his word that the government will exhaust its borrowing authority by the end of February and that Congress must act before then to raise the $17 trillion-plus debt ceiling.
“We’re in discussion with members on how we can move ahead,” Boehner said at his weekly news conference at the Capitol. “We’ve got time to do this. We’re going to continue to work at it. No decisions have been made.”
Just when it looked as if Boehner had somehow reclaimed control of his unruly caucus and quieted combative Tea Party adherents, the Speaker has once again been set back on his heels – back peddling from the leadership’s much heralded “principles” issued last week for passing immigration reform legislation this year and struggling to find a way to pass new debt ceiling legislation to avoid another fiscal crisis.
President Obama has repeatedly demanded that Congress send him a “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling, unencumbered by Republican policy provisions – such as presidential approval of constructing the Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the Gulf Coast. House Republicans on the other hand, don’t want to “give” without “getting,” but they can’t agree among themselves what to attach to the vital legislation.
Boehner’s latest suggestion was to encourage his members to demand the restoration of a recent cut in cost of living adjustments for some military retirees in return for a one-year extension of the government’s borrowing authority. The military benefits reduction was included in last December’s bipartisan budget deal, but it is highly unpopular among Republican and Democratic members alike.
For now, Boehner can’t attract 218 Republican votes -- the minimum needed to pass legislation in the House – for that or any alternative debt ceiling measure.
“You know, Mother Teresa is a saint now,” Boehner said. “But if the Congress wanted to make her a saint and attach that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 Republican votes.”
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