Obama Repeats Call for G.O.P. to Compromise on Debt Ceiling

By BINYAMIN APPELBAUM/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama repeated his call Saturday morning for House Republicans to accept a compromise that would allow the federal government to borrow more money, avoiding a potential default on its obligations.

But there was no sign of progress toward a deal after the Senate on Friday night quickly rejected a Republican plan that had passed the House only hours earlier. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, were blocking a vote on a rival Democratic plan.

Senator Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat and the majority leader, scheduled a vote early Sunday morning to break the blockade, but House Republicans said that they planned to hold a symbolic vote on Saturday afternoon to reject the Senate plan pre-emptively.

Mr. Obama, who has warned that the government could run short of money as soon as Wednesday morning, laid the blame for the impasse squarely on House Republicans in his weekly address, which largely repeated his remarks on Friday as the stalemate gripped Washington.

“Democrats in Congress and some Senate Republicans have been listening and have shown themselves willing to make compromises to solve this crisis,” he said. “Now all of us — including Republicans in the House of Representatives — need to demonstrate the same kind of responsibility.”

In the Republican video response, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona said that “Republicans have tried to work with Democrats,” to raise the debt ceiling, “but we need them to work with us.”

The Treasury Department calculates that the government will exhaust its ability to borrow money at the end of Tuesday, forcing the government to pay its bills from a dwindling pile of cash. Independent analysts estimate that the government has enough money on hand to pay all of its bills for another week, more or less, before it starts missing payments.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly called on Congress to raise the borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling, by Tuesday to avoid any uncertainty about the government’s ability to meet its obligations. Financial markets are particularly concerned about the payment of interest on the federal debt. A default on those obligations could precipitate a global financial crisis.

The government has refused to describe its plans should Congress fail to act in time, in part because it does not want to relieve the pressure on Congress to act by Tuesday.

The hope of many observers is that Mr. Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, can reach a deal that will win the support of both chambers.

Some Senate Republicans now say they are open to a compromise. A spokeswoman for Senator Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, said he could back “a Republican bill, or a Democrat bill — it doesn’t matter” as long as it cuts spending and does not raise taxes.

The painful negotiations to resolve the debt crisis has caught the attention of troops in Afghanistan, where Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quizzed repeatedly on Saturday by soldiers and Marines worried about their paychecks.

In Kandahar and Helmand Provinces, Admiral Mullen said it remained uncertain where money would be found if the government defaulted.

Regardless of budget talks in Washington, the mission for American troops in Afghanistan would not halt, he said.

“We’re going to continue to come to work,” he said.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

 

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