As the deadline for raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling approaches, House Republicans are discussing a temporary extension of the cap so the country can avoid default and they can continue to negotiate large spending cuts with the White House, the FOX Business Network has learned.
The discussions among key Republican staffers are by no means written in stone, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
But they do reflect the tightrope Republicans must walk if they dont reach an agreement with the Obama Administration. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said that if the ceiling isnt raised by August the country would effectively run out of money and wont be able to pay back bond holders.
Staffers concede that even a hint that the country could default on its debt could severely rattle the markets, causing not just stocks to plummet, but also make it difficult for private businesses to float bonds such as commercial paper that finance short-term spending needs such as payroll. But Republicans also want to force the administration to make deep spending cuts that could put a dent in the countrys massive debt load.
One possible solution is a temporary raising of the cap; one house staffer told FOX Business that a 48-hour or 72-hour extension has been discussed as a way to keep negotiating and to keep pressure on the White House to make large-scale spending cuts.
This would be a temporary move pending a massive agreement by both sides, said one staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The notion of a temporary extension indicates just how worried Republicans are becoming about the possibility that playing hard ball with the White House over the debt cap could weaken an already weak economy. Most economists agree that a default of the US debt, even one where the government missed an interest payment or two, would have catastrophic results since the US Treasury bond has always been considered the safest investment in the world.
Similarly, economists agree that lawmakers in Washington must begin to pull back from the massive amounts of deficit spending that has taken place in recent years, particularly by the Obama Administration, which issued more than $800 billion in bonds to finance the 2009 stimulus package.
The Obama Administration has shown little willingness so far to agree to the level of cuts that Republicans have described as significant. House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan has called for slashing the budget by $4 trillion over the next decade, including a vast overhaul of Medicare, which President Obama has publicly opposed.