Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Effort to Avert Default Collapses Setback in House; Focus on Senate as Deadline Nears

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Effort to Avert Default Collapses Setback in House; Focus on Senate as Deadline Nears

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- With the federal government on the brink of a default, a House Republican effort to end the shutdown and extend the Treasury's borrowing authority collapsed Tuesday night, as a major credit agency warned that the United States was on the verge of a costly ratings downgrade.

After the House Republican leadership's failure to find enough support for its latest proposal to end the fiscal crisis, the Senate's Democratic and Republican leaders immediately restarted negotiations to find a bipartisan path forward, and one aide described an agreement as imminent. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Mr. Reid was "optimistic that an agreement is within reach" with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

With so little time left, chances rose that a resolution would not be approved by Congress and sent to President Barack Obama before Thursday, when the government is left with only its cash on hand to pay the nation's bills.

"It's very, very serious," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., warned. "Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle, as I predicted weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable."

A day that was supposed to bring Washington to the edge of resolving the fiscal showdown instead seemed to bring chaos and retrenching. And a bitter fight that had begun over stripping money from the president's signature health care law had essentially descended in the House into one over whether lawmakers and their staff members would pay the full cost of their health insurance premiums, unlike most workers at U.S. companies, and how to restrict the administration from using flexibility to extend the debt limit beyond a fixed deadline.

Even so, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his leadership team failed in repeated, daylong attempts to bring their troops behind any bill that would reopen the government and extend the Treasury's debt limit on terms significantly reduced from their original push against funding for the health care law.

The House's hard-core conservatives and some more pragmatic Republicans were nearing open revolt, and the leadership was forced twice to back away from proposals it had floated -- the second time sending lawmakers home for the night to await a decision on how to proceed today.

"We're trying to find a way through it," said Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, emerging from Mr. Boehner's office to announce that no votes would be held Tuesday night.

The House setback returned the focus to the Senate, where the leadership had suspended talks after the Senate GOP leadership opted to give the House a chance to produce an alternative to the Senate measure taking shape. …

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