WASHINGTON - US House of Representatives Republicans are considering signing on to a short-term increase in the government's borrowing authority to buy time for negotiations on broader policy measures, according to a Republican leadership aide.
How long the increase might suffice - a few weeks or a few months - was unclear. But agreement by Republicans and Democrats to raise the debt ceiling would at least stave off a possible default after Oct. 17, when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has determined the government will no longer be able to borrow.
President Barack Obama has said he would accept a debt ceiling increase of limited duration as long as no strings were attached, except perhaps a non-binding agreement to discuss policy issues.
It was unclear Wednesday night how far Republicans might be prepared to go to meet Obama's conditions. Republicans in the House have been demanding a variety of conditions - including changes to Obama's healthcare law - in return for cooperating on the debt ceiling and on a funding measure that might reopen the government, which has been partially shut down since Oct. 1.
In recent days, however, Republican emphasis has shifted more toward deficit reduction measures and less to Obamacare, the health care law.
Republicans in particular and Congress in general have taken a public beating in the showdown, with an Associated Press-Gfk survey on Wednesday showing Congress as a whole at a rock-bottom 5 per cent approval rating. More than six of every 10 Americans blamed Republicans for the impasse.
Republican leaders plan to make remarks to reporters on Thursday at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) but it was uncertain whether they would be prepared to unveil anything concrete then. The party's leadership has proven unable to control rebellious conservatives in the House, who have sufficient power to squelch any deal they dislike.