Raising U.S. debt cap unilaterally would be suspect -White House

Reuters

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - The White House on Mondaysought to quash any possibility that President Barack Obamawould raise the U.S. debt ceiling by himself should Congressfail to do so before a mid-October deadline, as some havesuggested he should.

The U.S. Treasury Department has said it will exhaust thenation's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit in less than threeweeks. Unless Congress raises the cap, the government would gointo default, which the administration and most analysts saywould deal a disastrous blow to the U.S. and the global economy,where the value of U.S. government debt is sacrosanct.

"Even if the president could ignore the debt ceiling, thefact that there is significant controversy around thepresident's authority to act unilaterally means that it wouldnot be a credible alternative to Congress raising the debtceiling and would not be taken seriously by the global economyand markets," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Congressional Republicans say they will not raise the debtlimit unless Obama agrees to delay his signature healthcareprogram or cut spending deeply, both of which the presidentrejects. The stalemate has raised the specter of a default.

The government is on track to shut down at midnight Mondayover a similar impasse over government spending.

Former President Bill Clinton and others have said Obamashould act on his own to avoid a default, citing the 14thAmendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says the validity ofthe public debt "shall not be questioned."

Obama in January said he would not use the 14th Amendment tounilaterally raise the debt ceiling, and White House spokesmanJay Carney repeated that reluctance on Monday, saying it isCongress's responsibility to act on the debt limit, not thepresident's.

"The president can't raise it by himself," Carney said."This administration does not believe that the 14th Amendmentgives the power to ignore the debt ceiling."

Congressional Republicans are trying to make cuts to thehealth law, the Affordable Care Act, a condition for extendinggovernment spending, and have said they will set the samerequirement for raising the debt limit.

After bruising budget battles in 2011 that led the UnitedStates to the brink of default, Obama is flatly refusing tonegotiate over raising the debt ceiling, saying the consequencesof not doing so are so dire that there should be no debate.

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