WASHINGTON, United States - Efforts by the House of Representatives to end the US debt ceiling showdown collapsed in startling fashion Tuesday, with the Republican leadership failing to muster enough support for its own plans to avert default.
House Speaker John Boehner's team unveiled two paths out of the crisis, including a stripped-down Republican bill extending the US debt ceiling until February 7 and funding government for the next two months.
The first effort never got off the ground and a rules committee postponed a key hearing that would allow the second measure to reach the floor, essentially killing it.
"There will be no action, no votes and the Rules Committee will not be in tonight," the committee's Republican chairman Pete Sessions told reporters as the party failed to close ranks behind the proposal.
The plan came 15 days into a government shutdown, and little more than 24 hours before the United States hits a deadline when it will start running out of funds to pay its bills.
It leaves very little wiggle room for the House and Senate to fashion an agreement before the Thursday deadline that will not get hung up in procedural steps, which could happen in the Senate if any member objects to a fast-track process for a deal.
Aides said the House failure throws the responsibility of crafting a deal to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who had put earlier negotiations on hold after Boehner surprised many by trying to cobble together a House plan.
"Given tonight's events, the leaders have decided to work toward a solution that would reopen the government and prevent default," said McConnell's communications director Michael Brumas.
The rapid collapse of the House bill - precipitated, some say, by a memo from conservative think tank Heritage Action which threatened to score lawmakers poorly if they voted for the measure - shocked some Republicans.