Obama has indicated he could support a short-term debt-limit hike, but he has also demanded that Republicans allow the government to reopen before he would negotiate with the GOP.
If the Republicans want to negotiate, they should “reopen the government, extend the debt ceiling,” Obama said last week. “If they can’t do it for a long time, do it for the period of time in which these negotiations are taking place.”
Carney, the White House spokesman, told reporters Thursday afternoon: “The president is happy that cooler heads at least seem to be prevailing in the House, that there at least seems to be a recognition that default is not an option.” However, Obama “believes it would be far better . . . to raise the debt ceiling for an extended period of time,” as Senate Democrats are proposing.
“It would be far better for the economy if we stopped this episodic brinksmanship and . . . mothballed the nuclear weapon here, which is the threat of default, for a longer duration,” Carney said. “But it is certainly at least an encouraging sign that . . . they are not listening to the debt-limit and default deniers.” If Republicans now recognize that default cannot be permitted, he added, “why keep the nuclear weapon in your back pocket?”
[Members of Congress are collecting pay during the shutdown.]
The first reactions from Republican House members appeared generally positive. But several insisted they would back the measure only with a commitment from the president to open negotiations over the next debt-ceiling hike.
“All we’re doing is saying, if the president hasn’t come towards us, we’ll just move the deadline out and offer it again,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.). “We haven’t changed our position. We’ve just changed the timeline.”
Fleming rejected the idea that the proposal represents a concession from Republicans. “Not really, if we get a concession from the president, to sit down and negotiate. If he doesn’t agree to that, I won’t agree to the debt ceiling.”
Meanwhile, several of the House’s most conservative members withheld comment about the proposal. “I’m not very enthusiastic,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said without elaborating.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, was noncommittal when asked about the plan and said his support depends on what happens in the meeting with the president Thursday.
“Some of this involves a conversation with the president,” Scalise said. “There’s nothing unilateral that can be done. It’s going to involve having the president finally put some things on the table of his own.”