WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday morning that he does not yet have a bipartisan congressional agreement on the budget.
If unable to forge an agreement with congressional Democrats, he said he'd press forward with a Republican plan along the lines of one passed by the House of Representatives that the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected.
"I'm going to continue to work with my congressional colleagues in both parties and my House Republicans conference to try to develop a framework within the cut, cap and balance effort that the House passed this past week," Boehner said during an appearance on the Fox News Sunday program.
"I do believe such a framework could come together. But it is not in place as we sit here," the Ohio Republican said.
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The Obama administration meanwhile said that even a short-term deal might scare financial markets, and warned that a failure by Congress to raise the nation's debt ceiling this coming week would jeopardize paychecks for the military as well as benefit checks for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
"We do not have the ability.. to protect the American people from the consequences of Congress not taking that action," Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said, also on Fox.
After walking out of talks with the White House on Friday, Boehner has hoped to forge a congressional agreement between the leaders of the Republican House and Democratic Senate to cut spending and raise the nation's debt ceiling to allow the government to keep paying bills past Aug. 2.
He had signaled hopes to announce some agreement Sunday before Asian stock markets open. Some analysts fear stock markets will drop in fear that the U.S. will not reach agreement and default on debts it already owes.
Boehner suggested Sunday he may not be able to get any agreement from Democrats, which would doom any one-sided plan to failure in a divided government.
"A preferable plan would be a bipartisan plan that involves all of the leaders but it's too early to decide if that's possible," he said.
Regardless of who signs on, Boehner said it's too late now to work out a broad agreement for deep cuts in the long-term deficits and a long-range increase in the debt ceiling. He said any plan now would have to be a two-stage process that would allow a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, while separately Congress works on more complex reforms to major programs and overhauls the tax code for longer-term savings.
Geithner said, however, that it's still possible to work out a long-range plan. He said markets would react negatively not only to no deal, but to a small, short-term deal that meant another budget fight and threat of default next year.
"We have to take that threat off the table through the election," Geithner said.
Financial markets, he said, "are going to look at...not just whether we avoided a default crisis, which I'm very confident we will. They're going to look at whether we lift the cloud of default off the American economy. And they're going to look at the quality of savings and reforms we put in place."
Geithner sidestepped questions about his contingency plans for which bills he'd pay and which he'd ignore if the Congress doesn't vote to raise the debt ceiling.
"We write 80 million checks a month. There are millions and millions of Americans who depend on those checks coming on time. Not just people in the military, but people who get Social Security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid benefits....Congress will be putting 80 million check payments at risk."
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