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Merging Spending and Debt Debates Means Shutdown Likely to Last 2 Weeks

Signs grew clearer today that the debates about reopening the government, raising the debt limit and setting spending levels for the next year are being rolled into one. And one unspoken consequence is that the partial shutdown, now in its third day, looks increasingly likely to stay in effect for the next two weeks – until the Treasury’s deadline for either gaining more borrowing authority or defaulting.

Senior congressional Republicans and Democrats are conceding it makes little policy or political sense to put much more effort into finding votes for a continuing resolution lasting only a few weeks, when the even more consequential debt ceiling must be confronted almost immediately after.

GOP conservatives still believe they can win concessions from President Barack Obama — on both entitlement curbs and curtailing Obamacare — as part of a double-barrel bargain on both spending and borrowing. The president forcefully rebutted that expectation this morning.

“Let me be clear: There will be no more negotiating,” he told a friendly crowd assembled at construction company  in suburban Rockville, Md., echoing the message he delivered last night to the four top congressional leaders during a meeting in the Oval Office that seemed only to harden the standoff in all corners. His message to the GOP, the president said: “You don’t get a reward for keeping the government running, and you don’t get a reward for keeping the economy running.”

Obama spoke as the Treasury Department warned that an impasse on the debt ceiling beyond Oct. 17, when the government will be essentially out of cash to pay its bills, could start a downward economic plunge worse than the recession of five years ago – with credit markets seizing up, the dollar’s value plummeting and U.S. interest rates soaring. And even coming close to the brink of such an unprecedented default could roil both domestic and foreign financial markets.

For at least another day, though, Republicans planned to keep pursuing their current  strategy of pushing bills through the House to open the most politically popular portions of the government. Votes are planned this afternoon on bills to fund veterans programs and most operations of the reserves and the National Guard. The Democratic Senate was sure to reject those, along with bills passed by the House on Wednesday to take the sawhorses away from national park entrances, revive federal biomedical research and cover operations for the  District of Columbia.

House members were being told to prepare to spend at least part of the weekend at the Capitol, lest they be seen as shirking their job at a time of crisis. But GOP leadership has no other legislation yet prepared to keep lawmakers occupied

Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., is working on a menu of conservative policy goals his side would seek in a big budget negotiation, pairing each of them with a length of time the GOP would be willing to allow the debt limit to rise in return.

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