Boehner says US on a 'path' to default

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that the United States is hurtling toward a default because of the White House's refusal to negotiate on a debt ceiling increase. 

Boehner said "that's the path we're on" as long as President Obama refuses to sit down with congressional leaders and have a conversation about how to reopen the government and avoid a potentially catastrophic default.

"The president's refusal to talk is resulting in a possible default on our debt," Boehner said on ABC's "This Week."

"All he has to do is pick up the phone. I'm ready to talk; I've been ready to talk."

Boehner said he hoped that the president canceling his trip to Asia this weekend would mean that he is ready to negotiate.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded that his party is more than happy to talk but not at the peril of future negotiations.

"This is playing with fire, and we're happy to negotiate, but we want to negotiate without a gun to our head," he said on ABC.

He said he believes that the Speaker will blink.

"If you go for this kind of hostage-taking once, as the president did in 2011, it doesn't go away; it comes back worse and worse and worse."

Schumer said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and hard-right Republicans are "holding him hostage."

"Up until now, he hasn't had the courage or strength to resist them but so he'll be forced to raise the debt ceiling."

Boehner also said the House does not have the votes to pass either a "clean" stopgap spending measure or raise the debt limit, which the White House is demanding.

"I told the president that there's no way we're going to pass it when the votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit," he said.

"We are not going down that path of passing a clean debt limit. It's time to deal with America's problems," he said.

"How can you raise the debt limit and do nothing about the underlying problem?"

House Democrats argued that they certainly have their members behind passage of a clean continuing resolution that would reopen the government and that there is a growing number of Republicans on board to pass a bill without trying to defund or delay the healthcare law.

While Boehner agrees with the Treasury Department's assessment that the nation's economy is at risk of crashing without an increase in the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, he balked at whether he would put a clean debt limit bill on the House floor to avoid default.

"It won't happen until there are serious conversations about spending levels," he said.

The only way to end the stalemate, Boehner argued, is to bring everyone together to work out an agreement.

"It's going to end when the president decides to allow [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] to talk to me, to allow [Sen.] Patty Murray [D-Wash.] to talk to [Rep.] Paul Ryan [R-Wis.]. The president just can't sit there and say, 'I'm not going to negotiate.'"

Democrats and Republicans remain at loggerheads in the sixth day of a government shutdown and a looming debt ceiling increase.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said he will have exhausted all "extraordinary measures" to cover the nation's debts on Oct. 17.

Boehner told hold George Stephanopoulos that every president in modern history has negotiated over the debt limit to force big policy changes "and, guess what, George, they're going to be used again."

"My goal here is to not have the United States default on its debt," he said.

"My goal here is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and driving the debt up.

"I'm willing to sit down and have a conversation with the president, but his refusal to negotiate is putting our country at risk," he said.

Boehner suggested that House Republicans would continue their push to make sweeping changes ObamaCare, saying that the president's healthcare law will raise the cost of insurance premiums and make it "almost impossible" for employers to hire.

He argued that the Obama administration has provided waivers to big businesses and unions under the healthcare law, but "they're forcing the American people to buy a product that they do not want and cannot afford."

He said any deal would include progress on entitlement reform without tax increases.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that Boehner reneged on an agreement forged in July that Senate Democrats would accept lower spending levels in exchange for passing a "clean" spending measure without any healthcare amendments.

Boehner acknowledged that there were several conversations about taking that route and conceded that he thought the fight would be over the debt ceiling not on a CR.

Boehner argued that since the "this fight was going to come one way or the other," it would be best to go after it now.

"But I and my members decided that the threat of ObamaCare was so important that it was time for us to take a stand," he said.

"I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way."