House Republicans blame Obama for collapse of debt ceiling deal

United States President Barack Obama meets with small business owners about the government shutdown and debt ceiling on Friday, Oct 11, 2013. House Republicans blamed Mr Obama on Saturday for the collapse of a deal on extending US borrowing authority
United States President Barack Obama meets with small business owners about the government shutdown and debt ceiling on Friday, Oct 11, 2013. House Republicans blamed Mr Obama on Saturday for the collapse of a deal on extending US borrowing authority as the United States crept closer to a debt default. -- PHOTO: AP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - House Republicans blamed President Barack Obama on Saturday for the collapse of a deal on extending US borrowing authority as the United States crept closer to a debt default.

The Republicans met behind closed doors on Capitol Hill on the 12th day of a US government shutdown following a bitter budget dispute and an Oct 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

Earlier this week, Republicans suggested a six-week extension to US borrowing authority, without which Washington could begin to default on its obligations for the first time in history. Despite previous comments the White House would be open to such a plan, however, Mr Obama said on Saturday he wanted a long-term deal.

"It wouldn't be wise, as some suggest, to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple of months, and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season," Mr Obama said in his weekly radio and video address. Damage "to America's sterling credit rating wouldn't just cause global markets to go haywire; it would become more expensive for everyone in America to borrow money".

The remarks prompted frustration from Republicans and suggested optimism for a deal, which had risen on Friday, were perhaps premature.

"The President is freezing out America, and we'll do everything we can to make the point that we went to negotiate and he took no offer," Republican Representative Darrell Issa told reporters after the meeting.

"The President rejected our deal," Representative Raul Labrador said earlier. "It's now up to Senate Republicans to stand up."

Representative Eric Cantor, Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, also looked to the Senate for the next move, saying: "Right now, I'm hoping the Senate is standing strong, and then we as Republicans can speak with one voice."

"We're trying to see a resolution as quickly as possible," he said.

House Republicans have argued for any budget deal to include concessions on funding Mr Obama's health-care reforms, while Republicans in the Senate have been more willing to re-open the government without such conditions.

The Senate will move to vote on Saturday on a 15-month extension of the debt ceiling, to take the issue off the table until after the mid-term congressional elections next year. While the measure is unlikely to become law because it needs House support, it could provide a template for an eventual solution in the event of a longer term fiscal deal between Mr Obama and Republicans.