Republicans agree to raise debt ceiling until May 18

The Obama administration is welcoming Republican lawmakers’ decision not to withhold an extension of the nation’s borrowing limit. Republicans had threatened to allow the United States to default on its obligations if government spending were not sharply cut.

White House officials say the decision by Republicans in the House of Representatives to defuse the situation was significant. Press secretary Jay Carney Tuesday praised the move.

“The House Republicans made a decision to back away from the kind of brinksmanship that was very concerning to the markets, very concerning to business, very concerning to the American people,” said Carney.

Instead of tying the debt ceiling to spending cuts, House leaders plan a vote Wednesday to raise the government’s spending limit through May 18.

While the bill’s passage is not assured, Carney said that if it reaches President Barack Obama’s desk, he “would not stand in the way of the bill becoming law.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement Tuesday, saying the bill “introduces unnecessary complications, needlessly perpetuating uncertainty in the nation’s fiscal system.”

But it said the administration is encouraged that the proposal lifts the immediate threat of default.

The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, said Republicans will remain focused on reducing the nation’s debt.

“The biggest issue is the debt that is crushing the future for our kids and our grandkids, ” said Boehner. “Listen, hard-working taxpayers understand that you cannot keep spending money that you do not have. So we are going to continue to focus, especially here over this next 90, 120-day period, on bringing some fiscal responsibility to Washington.”

The top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Tuesday the Senate should pass the legislation and quickly resolve any differences with the House.

“Later this week the House plans to send the Senate a bill to address the debt limit in a timely manner,” said McConnell. “Once we get it, the Senate should quickly respond. If the Senate version is different than the one the House sends over, send it to conference. That is how things are supposed to work around here. We used to call it legislating.”

The Republican bill would postpone the first of three potential fiscal crises facing the U.S. On March 1, deep automatic spending cuts in defense and domestic spending are set to take effect. And on March 27, the authority to keep the government operating expires.

Jay Carney said that while Obama welcomes the Republican legislation to push back the debt ceiling deadline, he wants the issue resolved and not revisited every few months.

“The president has always been clear that it is not good for the economy to raise the debt ceiling in increments or short-term periods, that what we support is a long-term raising of the debt ceiling, so that we do not have any doubt or uncertainty for businesses or the global economy about the simple proposition that the United States always pays its bills,” he said.

Obama has refused to negotiate with Congress over the debt ceiling, saying lawmakers have an obligation to pay for the spending they have approved.

The previous standoff over the debt ceiling, in 2011, led several credit rating agencies to downgrade the status of U.S. debt for the first time.

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