Time growing desperately short, House Republican efforts to avert a Treasury default and end a partial government shutdown neared collapse Tuesday night, and one of the country's top ratings firms warned of a possible downgrade in the nation's creditworthiness.
Hours after announcing the House would hold an evening vote on a GOP-crafted measure, Republican leadership aides said a private check of support was not promising and the measure might never reach the floor.
That could mark the end of what amounted to a daylong detour away from separate bipartisan negotiations in the Senate that had appeared on the verge of bearing fruit.
As the day of secret meetings and frenzied manoeuvring unfolded in all corners of the Capitol, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., stood on the Senate floor at midafternoon and declared, ``We are 33 hours away from becoming a deadbeat nation, not paying its bills to its own people and other creditors.''
In New York, the Fitch rating agency warned that it was reviewing the government's AAA credit rating for a possible downgrade, though no action was near. Fitch, one of the three leading U.S. credit-ratings agencies, said that ``the political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default.''
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 133 points after rising a day earlier when optimism spread that a deal might be at hand.
Under the revised bill prepared by House Republicans, the Treasury would be permitted to borrow normally until Feb. 7 and the government reopened with sufficient funds to carry it to Dec. 15.
Additionally, members of Congress, the president, vice-president and thousands of aides would no longer be eligible to receive employer health care contributions from the government that employs them.
The partial shutdown, which began on Oct. 1, swiftly merged with the approaching debt crisis.
According to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, unless Congress acts by Oct. 17, the government will lose its ability to borrow, and would be required to meet its obligations relying only on cash on hand and incoming tax receipts.