WASHINGTON -- President Obama likely would sign legislation allowing the government to continue borrowing to cover obligations in the short term, even if it is not coupled with a measure reopening the government, a White House spokesman said Thursday.
“He wants Congress to do both. He wants Congress to fulfill both of its responsibilities,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “If Congress takes action without partisan strings attached, that would be a good thing.”
Later asked if Obama would sign a debt-limit bill without an accompanying spending bill, Carney said, “yes.”
The comments came hours after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) proposed a six-week debt limit increase. Such a measure would remove the threat of federal default when the government runs out of borrowing authority sometime around Oct. 17. Boehner’s plan would be linked to a commitment by Obama to negotiate with Republicans over the budget, but would not be tied to any concrete changes in policy.
Boehner’s decision constituted the first clear sign that a budget standoff may be reaching an endgame, although it was unclear whether his plan would find broad support among conservatives in his own party. It also remains unknown whether Senate Democrats, who are meeting with Obama on Thursday afternoon, will accept Boehner’s plan as is or seek to add a measure to reopen government agencies that have been closed since Oct. 1 because Congress has not passed bills to provide funds for them.
The president repeatedly has said that he won’t negotiate with Republicans on the budget until after Congress reopens the government and lifts the threat of a federal default. Obama, along with Senate Democrats, prefers a longer debt limit extension, Carney said, but would not hold out for a longer-term deal as long as no policy amendments were attached.
“If a clean debt limit bill is passed, he would likely sign it,” Carney said.
The spokesman resisted the suggestion that signing such a bill would force the president into negotiating with Republicans while the government was shuttered.
House Republican leaders were due to meet with the president later Thursday, a meeting Carney cast as a “conversation” not a negotiation. The president would not offer concessions, Carney said.
“They don't get anything in exchange for holding the economy hostage,” he said.