A week away from the deadline to raise the nation’s borrowing limit or risk default, House Republicans look to be coming to the negotiating table with a proposal.
House GOP members unveiled to their conference a measure that would enable the U.S. Treasury to borrow through November 22 without utilizing so-called “extraordinary measures,” sources tell FOX Business. The legislation would also de-link the debt ceiling proposal to a continuing resolution to fund the government and re-open areas that have been in a partial shutdown for nearly two weeks.
But here's where things get sticky: The House proposal would also permanently end Treasury's ability to enact extraordinary measures to prevent a debt default now and in the future. Historically, these measures have been a critical tool in pushing back debt ceiling deadlines in past fiscal logjams, like the one in 2011.
Though the White House said earlier Thursday the president would be likely to consider and potentially sign a House-passed debt limit extension, it's unclear whether he would actually sign the plan in its current form that includes the Treasury provision. A clean version of a borrowing limit increase would have given Republicans wiggle room in negotiations over the budget once the threat of debt default is off the table -- but that looks increasingly unlikely with the new provision.
In response to the House Republican proposal, the White House said while it doesn't outright reject a debt ceiling increase with some conditions, it reiterated its desire for the House to pass the Senate's year-long borrowing limit extension proposal.
"While we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises, we will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands. Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government," the White House said in a statement.
Democratic congressional leaders met with the president and Vice President Joe Biden at 1:45 p.m. ET to discuss ways to avoid crossing next week's debt limit deadline. Following the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reiterated his party's stance on a clean debt ceiling extension -- a postilion that matches the president's. Still, he said he would be "open" to looking at a short-term increase from Republicans, but the Senate will "wait and see."
House Republican leadership is set to follow in the Senate's footsteps to the White House around 4:35 p.m. ET to officially lay out its proposal to the president and vice president. It's unclear whether the legislators will return to the Capitol following the meeting to craft and introduce a bill in the House.
Lew to Congress: Raise the Debt Limit … Now
But as the clock ticks down to October 17, the date the Treasury Department has said it would run out of borrowing authority, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Thursday, markets and the economy could feel the effects of even a potential debt default before the actual deadline passes.
In a hearing before Congress Thursday, Lew said it was never a plan not to pay America’s bills, and that prioritization is just default by another name.
“Unfortunately, we now face a manufactured political crisis that is beginning to deliver an unnecessary blow to our economy – right at a time when the U.S. economy and the American people have painstakingly fought back from the worst recession since the Great Depression,” the Treasury Secretary said in prepared remarks.
Markets Rally, But Not Everyone Buys In
U.S. stock markets lurched higher on the glimmer of hope for a debt deal in Washington to avoid default, with the major market averages rallying more than 1% in morning trading. However, several individual market participants aren’t so sure the news is all positive.
“This development is just an initial step to agreeing to agreeing. [The] only thing that comes of today’s meeting is a four-to-six week delay and says noting about what happens in the interim,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said.
The potential six-week extension staves off what could possibly be a huge downside risk for U.S. equity markets. In 2011, when a similar threat of default stared Congress and Wall Street in the face, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged nearly 600 points after Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. sovereign debt rating from a platinum ‘AAA’ to a ‘AA+.’ Now, with a similar circumstance in mind, markets worry another downgrade could linger on the horizon if Congress doesn’t come to some kind of deal before next week’s deadline.
Michael Block, chief Strategist, Rhino Trading Partners, sees one more scramble before a final deal is struck.
“I think they fumble one more time, get one last piece of electioneering out of their system tonight, and then go into lockdown to get this done over the weekend,” he said.
Rich Edson joined the FOX Business Network as a Washington correspondent in October 2007.