White House: Debt Ceiling's Short-Term Extension Wouldn't Be Blocked

White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan.
White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON -- President Obama would not block the three- or four-month extension of the debt ceiling proposed by House Republicans last week if the bill were to reach his desk, the White House announced on Tuesday.

The president's preference, press secretary Jay Carney added, was for a longer delay. Carney also noted that congressional Democrats have expressed some concerns with the House GOP proposal, which will receive a vote in the House on Wednesday.

But even though the "bill still has to overcome some concerns expressed by members of both the House and Senate," Carney said that "if it does reach the president's desk, he would not stand in the way of the bill becoming law."

The comments by Carney are another sign of optimism for a legislative debate that, not too long ago, seemed likely to result in a bitter partisan standoff. House Republicans had demanded a commensurate amount of spending cuts to go along with the size of the debt ceiling increase they would pass. But at a retreat late last week, leadership proposed a three-month extension of the debt ceiling with only one condition: that the Senate pass a budget in that same time period or forgo future pay. On Tuesday morning, it was reported that the bill the House GOP would introduce would actually extend the debt ceiling for four months.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested the House GOP bill was a sign of progress, although he did not comment on the pay provisions.

"I'm happy [they're sending] us a debt ceiling not tied to entitlement cuts -- and dollar for dollar -- so that's a big step in the right direction," Reid said.

Carney did his best to avoid endorsing the legislation, noting that no one has actually seen the language yet. But he did applaud the decision by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the rest of his team not to use the debt ceiling as a point of brinksmanship.

"What we saw happen last week was sign, in our view, the House Republicans made a decision to back away from the kind of brinksmanship that was very concerning to the markets ... very concerning to the American people," said Carney during Tuesday's briefing. "We support the extension of the debt ceiling without drama or delay."

Later on Tuesday the Office of Management and Budget formally announced that it would not oppose the House Republicans' plan for a short-term extension of the nation's debt ceiling. The statement notes that it is the administration's preference to pass a "long-term increase" instead of one that would extend only three or four months. But it adds that the administration is "encouraged" that the House bill would remove the uncertainty and brinksmanship from the upcoming debt ceiling fight.

"For these reasons, the Administration would not oppose a short-term solution to the debt limit and looks forward to continuing to work with both the House and the Senate to increase certainty and stability for the economy," the statement reads.

Looking ahead to the necessity of raising the debt ceiling in the future, the OMB statement adds:

The President has also made clear that he will not have another debate with the Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they have already racked up through the laws that they passed. The President has made clear that the Congress has only two options -- pay their bills, or fail to do so and put the Nation into default.

H.R. 325 would temporarily allow the Congress to fund commitments to which it has already agreed. A temporary solution is not enough to remove the threat of default that Republicans in the Congress have held over the economy. The Congress should commit to paying its bills and pass a long-term clean debt limit increase that lifts self-inflicted and unnecessary uncertainty from the Nation's economy.

Michael McAuliff contributed reporting to this article.

This article has been updated to include additional responses from the OMB and Sen. Reid.

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