WASHINGTON (CNN) — As the partial shutdown of the federal government enters its seventh day Monday, the countdown to a government debt default drops to ten days.
A default is widely regarded as a much bigger economic disaster than the shutdown of non-essential services. President Barack Obama has demanded that Congress raise the debt ceiling — and avoid default — without conditions.
But House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday there will be no debt limit increase — and no end to the partial shutdown — unless President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats negotiate with House Republicans.
Boehner told ABC News that President Obama and some objective observers are wrong about the number of House Republicans who would vote for a so-called “clean” continuing resolution to re-open the federal government without conditions.
“There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR,” the speaker said.
But Boehner also used his rare Sunday news show appearance to back away from insisting on repeal or delay of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” as a condition for ending the shutdown and raising the debt limit.
Instead, Boehner said, he wants spending cuts through entitlement reform.
“My goal here is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and driving the debt up,” Boehner said. He said the retirement of the “baby boomer” generation will strain Social Security and Medicare beyond the breaking point if deficit spending is not reduced.
“We know these programs are important to tens of millions of Americans,” Boehner said. “But if we don’t address the underlying problems, they are not sustainable.”
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the government risks more than its credit rating if the debt ceiling is not increased by Oct. 17. He dismissed suggestions that the government could avoid default by making only interest payments.
Lew said Social Security payments and veteran’s benefits also could be endangered.
“It’s very dangerous, it’s reckless,” Lew said.