US lawmakers begin last-ditch effort on debt ceiling
Updated: 2013-10-16 14:38
Boehner's touch decision
Assuming the Senate succeeds, House Speaker John Boehner will have to decide whether to allow passage of a bill that many of his fellow Republicans might oppose, a decision that could impact the top Republican's political future.
Uncertainty over Washington's ability to avert a default led Fitch Ratings to warn it could cut the sovereign credit rating of the United States from AAA, citing the political brinkmanship over raising the federal debt ceiling.
House Republicans twice tried to come up with a new compromise but failed to satisfy Obama, Senate Democrats or Tea Party conservatives who are determined to win changes to the president's signature healthcare law before they will agree to concessions on the budget.
The first House Republican attempt was shot down in a closed-door meeting that had begun with members singing the hymn "Amazing Grace."
The second plan was scuttled hours before it was expected to hit the House floor for a vote after the influential Heritage Action for America, a conservative group, urged a "no" vote because it did not do enough to stop Obama's healthcare law.
If Congress fails to reach a deal by Thursday, checks would likely go out on time for a short while for everyone from bondholders to workers who are owed unemployment benefits. But analysts warn that a default on government obligations could quickly follow, potentially causing the US financial sector to freeze up and threatening the global economy.
The US Treasury Department seized on Fitch's downgrade threat to press Congress. "The announcement reflects the urgency with which Congress should act to remove the threat of default hanging over the economy," a Treasury spokesperson said.
After the Fitch announcement, S&P 500 futures fell 9.6 points while Dow Jones industrial average futures sank 60 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 7.5 points.
Numerous polls show Republicans have taken a hit in public opinion since the standoff began and the government partially closed. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Monday found that 74 percent of Americans disapprove of the way congressional Republicans have handled the standoff, compared with a 53 percent disapproval rating for Obama.
Another survey released by Gallup on Tuesday showed American confidence in the US economy fell another five points last week as the government shutdown continued.
The crisis is the latest in a series of budget battles in recent years that have hurt consumer confidence and weighed on the economy. A Monday estimate by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a think tank, said the uncertainty caused by the frequent fiscal showdowns had boosted the unemployment rate by 0.6 of a percentage point, or the equivalent of 900,000 jobs since late 2009.