Rivals clash in battle to avert US default

The Republican-led House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate pushed ahead yesterday with rival measures to avert a US default next week, but neither offered immediate hope for ending the stand-off.

The top Republican in the House, Speaker John Boehner, hastily reworked his proposal to cut spending and raise the government’s borrowing authority after opposition from his party’s most conservative members forced him to postpone votes twice in two previous days.

Mr Boehner planned to try for another vote later yesterday, though even if passed, it is likely to be doomed in the Senate.

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The Senate’s Democratic leader, Harry Reid, signalled he would push ahead with his own plan but that has little chance of passing the House.

The bills though could provide the basis for behind-the-scenes talks by congressional leaders aimed at finding a bipartisan compromise that could win approval in both chambers before Tuesday’s deadline.

If they fail, the government would run out of money after Tuesday. Lacking the authority to take on more debt, it would be unable to pay some of its obligations. A default would lower the US credit rating, which would have a ripple effect on the global economy and send interest rates soaring. Already, concerns about the impasse have sent world stock markets lower.

President Barack Obama warned yesterday the politicians were ”almost out of time” and challenged them to put the country’s interests above party politics.

“The power to solve this is in our hands on a day when we’ve been reminded how fragile the economy already is,” the president said from the White House, as US stocks fell in response to a sour report on economic growth and widespread uncertainty over the Washington debt stalemate. “This is one burden we can lift ourselves. We can end it with a simple vote.”