Chamber prods GOP on debt ceiling

The nation’s main business lobby on Monday called on the House to raise the debt ceiling, increasing pressure on Republicans to move a bill forward.

The letter to lawmakers calls on the House to pass a “timely increase” to the debt limit, which had been suspended until Friday. The government's debt is above $17 trillion.

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The Treasury Department has set a Feb. 27 deadline for raising the limit, arguing it might not be able to pay all U.S. obligations at that time.

The chamber’s chief lobbyist, Bruce Josten, wrote that raising the debt limit would eliminate the threat of default and allow credit markets to function properly. He added that it would allow the economy to “finally to achieve some long-awaited momentum.”

Chamber officials have previously said they believe Congress will raise the debt ceiling. After seeing their poll numbers battered by the October government shutdown, Republicans have little interest in dancing with a possible default.

House Republicans will hold a conference meeting at 5:30 on Monday to discuss possible steps forward. With a congressional recess next week, lawmakers have little time for action.

Josten said Congress doesn’t have enough time to consider major changes to entitlement programs given the Feb. 27 deadline. But he said approval of an omnibus spending measure should give the parties space to negotiate on other issues.

“While there is insufficient time to deal with these issues in the immediate context of the debt limit, with the passage of 2014 funding legislation the Congress now has an opportunity to return to normal legislative order, which should facilitate a decision process addressing current and substantially greater future fiscal imbalances,” he wrote.