WASHINGTON (AP) — Its approval ratings scraping bottom, Congress took no discernible steps yesterday to end the nine-day partial government shutdown or to head off a threatened default by the national Treasury.
Instead, the House passed legislation that the Obama administration already had rendered unnecessary, while Speaker John Boehner and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi met face-to-face — and promptly disagreed even about which side had requested the get-together.
Across the Capitol, the Senate marked time under 18th century rules, focusing its attention on a test vote — next weekend — on a $1 trillion increase in the debt limit to avert a default.
“Enough is enough,” said Barry Black, the Senate chaplain who has delivered a series of pointed sermonettes in recent days as lawmakers careen from crisis to crisis.
With Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on tap to testify before lawmakers on Thursday, officials said he was expected to reiterate that Congress needed to raise the government’s borrowing limit by Oct. 17 to be sure of preventing default.
How bad would that be? The nation’s largest manager of money market mutual funds was taking no chances. It said it had been selling off government debt holdings over the past couple of weeks and no longer holds any that comes due around the time the nation could hit its borrowing limit. Fidelity Investments expects Congress to take the necessary steps to avoid default, but “we have to take precautionary measures,” said Nancy Prior, president of Fidelity’s Money Market Group.
Leaders of both political parties have warned that a financial default could plunge the economy into recession, cause interest rates to rise and home values to plummet.
But at least one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, said a default wouldn’t be the worst calamity to befall the country.