WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) —
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner says he won’t bring up bills to reopen the government or raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to trim the deficit.
The speaker also said the House didn’t have enough votes to pass a funding bill to reopen the government in the new fiscal year, which began Tuesday, without Republican priorities.
His comments marked the first time he paired the standoffs over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling. He previously described the fight as centering on GOP demands to delay or dismantle parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” in exchange for funding the government.
When questioned by ABC about whether he was sure there weren’t enough votes in the House to pass a clean government-funding bill, Boehner said: “The American people expect in Washington, when we have a crisis like this, that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation. I told my members the other day, there may be a back room somewhere, but there’s nobody in it.”
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., disputed Boehner’s assessment.
House Democratic leaders have said at least 195 Democrats have signed a letter saying they would pass such a resolution.
As Boehner’s language hardened, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew appeared on four of the six major Sunday talk shows, saying President Barack Obama would negotiate the nation’s long-term budget problems, but not until Republicans dropped their campaign against the healthcare law, ended the government shutdown and raised the $16.7 trillion debt limit.
Republicans “need to do their job. They need to open the government. They need to fund our ability to pay our bills,” he said.
The shutdown, in its seventh day Monday, leaves Washington edging closer to a potentially destabilizing Oct. 17 deadline, when Lew has said the Treasury will not have enough money to pay all its bills. Lew has said not raising the debt ceiling, or the statutory borrowing limit, before that date could produce a historic first U.S. default on its national debt.
He said Sunday he could not predict when the Treasury would run short of cash.
He told CNN’s “State of the Union” Obama could not constitutionally raise the debt ceiling by himself if Congress fails to act.