Boehner seeks Republican unity on debt-limit amid shutdown

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is trying to unite Republicans around a plan to reopen the federal government, raise the debt ceiling and achieve as many of the party’s priorities as they can.

There’s one major problem: the 232 members of his caucus can’t agree on how to do that.

Boehner is under pressure from multiple factions in his own party during a House Republicans’ meeting that began at 10 a.m. today in Washington, on the fourth day of a partial government shutdown that shows no signs of ending. He told members that he he wouldn’t allow a U.S. default, according to a person in the room speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

“The speaker has been trying to unify us for a long time,” Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican and Boehner ally said yesterday. “The problem is it’s impossible as long as we have people out telling their constituents that there is a magical way to get 67 senators and 290 House members to override a presidential veto.”

One group is composed of anti-tax hard-liners who want to use the debt ceiling as leverage to gain concessions from President Barack Obama. Others want to take a more conciliatory stance and are urging Boehner to allow the government to re-open and drop demands related to the Affordable Care Act. It isn’t clear what the largest group -- 100 or so Republicans not clearly aligned with either side -- can support.

Canceled Trip

These disagreements are among the reasons why Republican leaders haven’t released a specific plan. Whatever they do will be designed to merge the disputes over a stopgap spending measure and the U.S. debt ceiling into one fight, in a bid to draw Obama into negotiations that he says won’t happen.

Obama last night called off a trip to Asia next week so that he can focus on getting congressional Republicans to vote on a spending measure to reopen the government, White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

“The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government,” Carney said of the decision to drop plans to travel to Indonesia and Brunei for economic meetings. The president already had shortened the trip because of the shutdown.

The House will remain in session and voting tomorrow for its second straight weekend. Sunday votes aren’t expected, according to a Republican schedule.

Economic Harm

Democrats say the debt ceiling is no leverage at all, because both parties know it has to be raised this month to prevent global economic harm and because Obama won’t yield and repeat the negotiations he entered in 2011.

“There will be no negotiations over this,” Obama said yesterday in Rockville, Maryland. “The American people are not pawns in some political game. You don’t get to demand some ransom in exchange for keeping the government running.”

The partisan back-and-forth over the shutdown was interrupted yesterday by a mid-afternoon police chase and shooting outside the Capitol that injured two law-enforcement officers and killed a female suspect, said Cathy Lanier, chief of the Washington police.

U.S. stocks rose. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.4% at 10:48 a.m. New York. Ten-year Treasury yields rose from almost a seven-week low, increasing three basis points to 2.64%, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.

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