By Rosalind S. Helderman
Published: January 11, 2013
Democratic leaders in the Senate on Friday urged President Obama to consider bypassing Congress to prevent the nation from defaulting on its spending obligations if lawmakers cannot agree to raise the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling next month.
In a joint letter that served as a warning to congressional Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and his leadership team encouraged Obama to “take any lawful steps” to avoid default — “without Congressional approval, if necessary.”
The letter appeared to be an effort to push the White House to play hardball in its negotiations with Republicans as the federal government edges up against a legally imposed limit on borrowing.
Republicans have insisted that they will not increase the government’s borrowing authority without deep spending cuts, including to entitlement programs. On Friday they rejected the idea of unilateral action by the president.
“The Democrat leadership hiding under their desks and hoping the President will find a way around the law on the nation’s maxed-out credit card is not only the height of irresponsibility, but also a guarantee that our national debt crisis will only get worse,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a statement.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said that Americans “will not tolerate” hiking the debt ceiling without spending cuts.
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