(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
With more than a week ahead of the debt ceiling deadline and six days into a partial shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday President Obama is risking default by not discussing House Republicans' demand for delay or defunding of the health care law and new spending cuts.
"We're not going to pass a clean debt limit increase," Boehner said during an interview with ABC's "This Week." "I told the president, there's no way we're going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us."
Boehner said the House thought it was time to take a stand against Obama's signature health care law, better known as "Obamacare." "And we took a stand." Many Republicans believe Obamacare, which is set to go into effect on Oct. 1, will cause premiums to rise steeply and harm the economy.
Could America default on debt payments if Obama refuses to budge from his stand? "That's the path we're on," Boehner said.
"I have 233 Republicans in the House," the Ohio Republican added. "And you've never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country. They believe that Obamacare, all these regulations coming out of the administration, are threatening the future for our kids and our grandkids. It is time for us to stand and fight."
The fight was inevitable, Boehner went on to say. "We're in the fight. We don't want to shut the government down."
The Treasury Department is likely to hit its statutory debt ceiling on Oct. 17, and Congress' failure to increase the government's borrowing limit would directly affect the credibility of treasury bonds leading to a financial catastrophe.
Two years ago, Congress and the Obama administration narrowly averted default by agreeing to cut $2 trillion in spending over the following 10 years. That itself resulted in the financial services company Standard and Poor's lowering the U.S. credit rating for the first time.
Congress is "playing with fire," warned Treasury Secretary Jack Lew while speaking to CNN on Sunday. "We've never gotten to the point where the United States government has operated without the ability to borrow," he said. "It's very dangerous. It's reckless, because the reality is, there are no good choices if we run out of borrowing capacity and we run out of cash."
However, negotiations remain stalled.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas blames it on Obama's unreasonable approach, saying the GOP has three objectives.
"No. 1, we should look for some significant structural plan and reduce government spending. No. 2, we should avoid new taxes, and No. 3, we should look for ways to mitigate the harms from Obamacare. Since 1978, we raised the debt ceiling 58 times," Cruz said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Twenty times Congress attached very specific and stringent requirements, many of the most significant spending restraints. So the president's demand to jack up the nation's credit card with no limits, no constraints – it's not reasonable."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Saturday it plans to call almost all of its 350,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work under a decision made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
About 800,000 federal workers were furloughed after the shutdown began last Tuesday.
The House passed on Saturday a bill that would offer furloughed workers back pay once they return to work. The House also passed a bill Saturday to let military chaplains hold services during the shutdown, as Catholic priests under government contract were not allowed to offer communion and other religious services on military bases.