House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday proposed a short-term increase in the debt ceiling as a way to avoid what administration officials warn would be an economic catastrophe, putting the idea to President Obama ahead of a high-stakes White House meeting.
Boehner and his deputies announced the proposal after pitching it to rank-and-file Republicans in a closed meeting. The plan would allow for a six-week extension of the debt ceiling with no strings attached, as long as Obama and Democrats make a "real commitment" to negotiate over the partial government shutdown and a longer-term debt-ceiling hike.
"It's time for leadership," Boehner said.
Key Republican negotiators will head to the White House Thursday afternoon.
Inside the GOP caucus, reaction to the plan appeared to be mixed, with some voicing support and others voicing skepticism. One source said leadership was "taking the temperature of the conference" before taking the idea to Obama.
Without an agreement, Treasury officials warn the nation will be unable to pay all its bills by Oct. 17.
Notably, the emerging plan would not address the ongoing partial government shutdown, leaving that issue unresolved. The hope among GOP leaders is that a short-term debt-ceiling deal would bring Obama to the table to negotiate a new spending bill.
Obama has indicated he would consider signing a short-term deal. A statement from the White House, though, was non-committal over the new plan.
A White House official said "we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises" but will not "allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands." The official said Obama still wants the House to pass a spending bill first, and raise the debt ceiling, before Obama will negotiate.
The official also reiterated that Obama would prefer a longer-term debt-ceiling increase, like the one-year extension the Senate is considering.
One source said the new GOP proposal would increase the debt ceiling through a hard deadline of Nov. 22, but also call for negotiators to be appointed to discuss the budget -- and require Obama to work with them on both the debt limit and budget.
Pressure is increasing on all sides to work out an agreement. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testified on Thursday that both stalemates are creating a drag on the economy and Wall Street.
He issued dire warnings about failing to raise the debt ceiling. He did not specifically warn that the government would be unable to pay interest on the debt, but said payments ranging from Social Security checks to Medicare reimbursements to military salaries could be halted by the end of the month.
He said some of the repercussions would be unpredictable since this is "uncharted territory."
"It would be chaos," Lew said.
Though some Republicans have accused the administration of exaggerating, many still do not want to toy with breaching the debt-ceiling deadline.
Senate Republicans are set to meet with Obama at the White House on Friday morning.
Fox News' Mike Emanuel, Chad Pergram and Fox Business Network's Rich Edson contributed to this report.