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Congress 'playing with fire' on debt limit, warns Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (+video)

Making the rounds of TV news shows Sunday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said failure to raise the US debt limit means 'credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, US interest rates could skyrocket.'

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“The majority” in this case would be all the Democrats and a couple dozen Republicans – those willing to vote for a “clean” continuing budget resolution unencumbered by any attempt to stymie the new health-care insurance law dubbed “Obamacare” – in a House of Representatives controlled by the GOP and its embattled speaker, John Boehner.

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As most political analysts describe it, Mr. Boehner finds himself boxed in by 40 or so recently elected tea party upstarts in his caucus, who have been whipped into a kind of intraparty independence if not rebellion by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas – himself the target of sometimes open scorn by some more-veteran Republican lawmakers.

There seemed to be hints this past week that Boehner would allow a “clean” House vote to raise the debt ceiling. But he backed away from that notion Sunday.

"I told the president, there's no way we're going to pass one,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us."

In this case, Boehner implied, such a conversation would focus on government spending, not necessarily on Obamacare.

“I'm not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up,” he said, pointing out that past presidents – including Obama himself in 2011 – negotiated the debt limit with Congress. “It would be irresponsible of me to do this."

“The nation's credit is at risk because of the administration's refusal to sit down and have a conversation," Boehner said.

Senator Cruz, appearing on CNN after the Treasury secretary, denied the likelihood of disaster if the Oct. 17 debt-ceiling deadline passes without congressional action, which he still wants to tie to Obamacare as well as to spending cuts.

Lew, of course, disagrees: "Anyone who thinks that the United States government not paying its bills is anything less than default hasn't thought about it very clearly.”

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