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House Republicans’ new plan: Kick the can down the road

The GOP will offer a temporary increase in the $16.7 trillion debt limit—in return for negotiations over the federal budget.
/ Source: hardball

The GOP will offer a temporary increase in the $16.7 trillion debt limit—in return for negotiations over the federal budget.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) walks through Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol, October 9, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

America may still have a debt-limit disaster on its hands. But it’s looking like it will at least be delayed.

House  Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday morning that the GOP will offer a temporary increase in the $16.7 trillion  debt limit—without any strings attached—in return for negotiations over the federal budget.

And while President Barack Obama has said he won’t negotiate until both the debt ceiling is raised and the government is reopened, Boehner’s move is the first real step toward the kind of “clean” deal Obama has demanded.

It’s a sign that Obama’s hardline won’t just pay off in the polls, but at the bargaining table, since Boehner made the first concession in negotiations.

Still, the Ohio Republican blamed President Obama and the Democrats for the current fiscal crisis, arguing it was them that were unwilling to come to the bargaining table. “I would hope that the president would look at this as an opportunity and a good faith effort on our part to move halfway…in order for these conversations to begin.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor described the extension, expected to last about about six weeks, as an exchange for “a real commitment by this president …to sit down and talk about the pressing problems facing the American people.”

The House GOP leadership is expected to take the plan to the White House Thursday afternoon to open negotiations with President Obama. Though the bill offers a six-week debt ceiling increase, it does not include terms on reopening the government. Senate Democrats are wary of the proposal, NBC News reports, and are waiting until their own meeting with the president Thursday to evaluate the measures.

The House leadership’s remarks come on Day 10 of the shutdown and just seven days from the country entering into default unless Congress can agree to a debt ceiling increase. The president has said that he was willing to negotiate with the GOP, but that the government must reopen first. Obama has called for a debt-limit increase without any conditions, but GOP leaders had previously refused to budge unless specific spending reductions are put in play in exchange for a debt-limit hike.

The shutdown is a result of Republican who are quixotically rallying around a plan to delay or defund Obamacare. It is unclear how the proposal would affect the shutdown.

White House spokesman Jay Carney indicated a press conference that Obama would sign the clean debt ceiling extension but cautioned the White House does not know all of the details.

“I think the president said the other day, if they were to send him a clean debt ceiling extension, no partisan strings attached, he would sign it. But we don’t know that’s what we’re going to get here.” Carney added, “If the House passes — as they could right now — the bill that passed the Senate to reopen the government at funding levels Republicans set and celebrated, he would sign it.”

When asked what’s to prevent the country from being in the exact same position in a few weeks from now, Boehner acknowledged that is a possibility. “We don’t want to be there…[but] we’ve got to sit down and have a conversation.”

Two Democratic leadership aides told NBC News that while they have concerns about the short-term, Republican proposal, they aren’t ruling it out.

“Unlike their past proposals, it’s definitely not an automatic ‘no,’” one of the aides said, adding if it were a choice between a six-week extension or going into default, the proposal would be “hard to oppose.” The aides noted, however, that there’s no guarantee the deal would even pass in the House.

With NBC News’ Kasie Hunt.