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October 15, 2013

New House GOP plan as debt-limit deadline nears

WASHINGTON — Time growing desperately short, House Republicans pushed for passage of legislation late Tuesday to prevent a threatened Treasury default, end a 15-day partial government shutdown and extricate divided government from its latest brush with a full political meltdown.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House to the measure, which was revised from a version unveiled only hours earlier that had been stocked with conservative priorities and had drawn swift condemnation from Democrats.

While the House readied for a possible Tuesday night vote, the immediate result was to impose a daylong freeze on Senate negotiations on a bipartisan compromise that had appeared ready to bear fruit.

As a day of secret meetings and frenzied maneuvering unfolded in all corners of the Capitol, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., stood on the Senate floor at midafternoon and declared, "We are 33 hours away from becoming a deadbeat nation, not paying its bills to its own people and other creditors."

The New York Stock Exchange fell 133 points after rising a day earlier when optimism spread that a deal might be at hand. Separately, Fitch Ratings announced after the markets had closed it was putting the government's AAA bond rating on watch because of uncertainty over the debt limit.

Under the revised bill prepared by House Republicans, the Treasury would be permitted to borrow normally until Feb. 7 and the government reopened with sufficient funds to carry it to Dec. 15.

Additionally, members of Congress, the president, vice president and thousands of aides would no longer be eligible to receive employer health care contributions from the government that employs them.

"The House will vote tonight to reopen the government and avoid default," Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.

He said the legislation would "end Obamacare subsidies for elected officials and staff in Washington, D.C., and pressure Senate Democrats to accept more sensible" time frames for reopening the government and renewing Treasury's borrowing authority.

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