Boehner likely to move on debt limit hike before departure

Posted at 3:36 PM, Oct 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-14 16:36:43-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner is signaling that he'll move must-do legislation to increase the government's borrowing cap before he leaves Capitol Hill.

The statutory cap on the government's so-called debt limit needs to be raised by early November, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday, confirming a recent warning from the administration.

Boehner himself has said that he doesn't want to leave a "dirty barn" for his successor, comments that have been widely interpreted as a promise that he would try to at least clear away the debt limit issue rather than saddle the next speaker with the task.

"The Speaker has made it clear that he wants to solve some outstanding issues before he leaves. No decisions have been made, but a resolution on the debt ceiling is certainly possible," said a Boehner spokesperson.

Threats against Boehner from hard-right lawmakers angry over his moves to avert a government shutdown — rather than wage a longshot battle with Democrats over taking away federal funding for Planned Parenthood — led him to announce last month that he will resign at the end of October. That deadline is now in question after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., dropped out of the race to replace Boehner, leaving no obvious successor other than a reluctant Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is keeping his cards close to his vest.

If the government runs out of cash, it can't pay obligations like interest payments, Medicare payments, and Social Security checks. The government has never defaulted on its obligations and a severe market reaction would be all but certain if it did.

Last year, Boehner gave in to demands from President Barack Obama for a borrowing increase free of GOP add-ons. Obama is insisting he won't give concessions to get a debt bill from Congress this year. Boehner hasn't explicitly said what his plans are but he has been out of the ultimatum game after winning $2.1 trillion in spending cuts in exchange for a 2011 debt limit increase.

Last year, Boehner was one of just 28 House Republicans to vote for a "clean" debt limit increase. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was among a handful of Senate Republicans to join with then-majority Democrats to send the measure to Obama. Now, McConnell would have to produce additional GOP votes to move the measure over the Senate's 60-vote filibuster barrier.

The Congressional Budget Office weighed in Wednesday with a report saying the government would run dangerously low on cash in early November and run through all of its cash reserves sometime during the first half of the month. CBO had earlier predicted lawmakers would have more time; its revisions followed a letter from to top lawmakers from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew effectively setting a Nov. 5 deadline for congressional action.