Washington — House Republican leaders are considering a short-term increase in the U.S. debt limit as a possible way to break out of the gridlock that threatens the nation with an unprecedented default in as little as a week, officials said Wednesday night.
There now is far less urgency on Capitol Hill about ending the government shutdown, which heads into its 10th day today. It has caused inconvenience and financial concern for many individual Americans but appears not to threaten the widespread economic damage a default might bring.
The officials declined to say what conditions, if any, might be attached to legislation to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit for an undetermined period, perhaps a few weeks or months. The GOP rank and file are expected to meet and discuss the issue today, before a delegation led by Speaker John Boehner goes to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama.
Obama has said he won’t agree to sign a debt limit increase if conditions are attached. Republicans are demanding as yet-unspecified concessions to reduce deficits or make changes in the nation’s three-year-old health care law.
At the same time, the House has voted to create a 20-member group of lawmakers from the House and Senate to negotiate over those and other issues — a bill that made no mention of the debt limit.
The officials describing the developments late Wednesday spoke only on condition of anonymity.
The disclosure came as Obama met at the White House in late afternoon for more than an hour with House Democrats. He told them that while he would prefer legislation extending the Treasury’s borrowing ability beyond the next election, he would also sign a shorter-term bill.
In addition to leadership conversations, a group of House conservatives met privately during the day for what several officials described as a wide-ranging discussion on the debt limit and the threat — or lack of it — posed by default.
No consensus was reached, but among those who spoke was Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate who is chairman of the House Budget Committee and a prominent deficit hawk.