Obama, Democrats push bill to end deadlock
Democrats said they would attempt to force Republicans to agree to a long-term $1 trillion debt-limit increase to ensure that the government does not reach a point this month where it may be unable to pay its bills, risking its first default. They said they also may accept a short-term bill, perhaps lasting only weeks, if necessary to avoid going over the brink.
The Democratic push on the debt limit came as a partial government shutdown entered its second week with no solution in sight.
In a hastily arranged visit Monday to the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Obama said he would not bow to Republicans' demands that he enter negotiations with them or risk a continued shutdown or a default.
Republicans remained undeterred, saying they would neither raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling nor reopen the government without first winning concessions.
After Oct. 17, the Treasury Department says it cannot guarantee that it can pay all of the government's bills, and independent analysts say the government would have less than two weeks before a default.
Financial markets on Monday sounded alarms about the brinkmanship. The stock market fell, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index down 14.38 points, to 1676.12. Short-term borrowing costs for U.S. taxpayers reached their highest point in nearly a year.
Later this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) hopes to open debate on a bill that would raise the debt, aides said. To do so, he would need the support of all 54 Senate Democrats and six Republicans - a goal that seemed possible Monday, but is far from assured.
Meanwhile, if any senator objects to the proposal, procedural hurdles would prevent the measure from clearing the Senate and reaching the House until Oct. 15 - two days before the Treasury Department's deadline.
Several GOP senators left the door open to supporting a "clean" debt-limit bill, but said it would depend on whether Democrats were willing to enter talks on broader budget reforms.
"I don't know what the dynamics are here. I don't know what's being offered. It's too early," said Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), who nonetheless held out hope. "I'm going to have to wait and see."
But senior GOP aides said any debt-limit proposal in the House is likely to need significant conservative sweeteners.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio) sharply criticized Democrats for not coming to the negotiating table.
"Now, the American people expect when their leaders have differences, and we're in a time of crisis, we'll sit down and at least have a conversation," Boehner said on the House floor. "Really, Mr. President, it's time to have that conversation before our economy is put further at risk."
Obama and Reid once again called on Boehner to simply hold a vote on a bill that would reopen the government.
"I ask the speaker: Why are you afraid?" Reid said. "Are you afraid the bill will pass, the government will reopen and Americans will realize you took the country hostage for no apparent reason?"
A meeting of the entire Republican conference was scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, but aides said rank-and-file lawmakers - incensed by what they consider Obama's refusal to recognize their constitutional role in the budget process - will be in no mood to compromise. "We're just waiting for the phone to ring," one senior aide said.
Senior White House officials said Obama believes that negotiating over the government shutdown or debt ceiling would have a harmful, long-term effect on governance, effectively allowing one group to hold the government hostage.
"He's not going to sanction negotiations with any faction that are using the threat of default as a way of enacting policy in our democracy," Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, said at a discussion held by Politico. "The era of threatening default has to be over."
Pa. Lawmakers Deferring Pay
A growing number of Pennsylvania's members of Congress are saying they will not take a paycheck while the government is shut down.
A spokesman for the U.S House's chief administrative office said Monday that monthly paychecks for members are not due until the end of October, so no House member has missed a paycheck.
Senators, like many federal employees, are paid twice a month, with the next paycheck due around Oct. 15.
Both Pennsylvania senators, Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, have said they will not accept a paycheck during the shutdown.
More than half the members of Pennsylvania's 18-person U.S. House contingent say they have asked for their pay to be withheld, or will not accept a paycheck. Seven congressmen did not respond to inquiries Monday, and the chief administrative office would not say whose pay it was asked to withhold.
Lawmakers who asked for their paychecks to be withheld would still be issued all of their back pay by congressional administrators once the shutdown ends.
FAA Recalling 800 Workers
Federal Aviation Administration officials say that 800 furloughed employees, including some safety inspectors, are being asked to return to work this week despite no end in sight to the shutdown.
The recalled workers include about 600 inspectors and other safety employees in the agency's Flight Standards office. The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union says that's less than a quarter of all furloughed Flight Standards inspectors. The inspectors check to see whether airlines are maintaining their planes according to FAA rules, among other duties.
Also being recalled are 200 engineers, inspectors, and safety staff who approve new plane designs and equipment and register new planes. Manufacturers of small planes and business jets say the shutdown threatens to halt $1.38 billion in near-term deliveries of new planes. - AP