|U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)(R) leaves after a meeting discussing the Senate budget deal on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., Oct. 16, 2013. U.S. Senate leader said on Wednesday that a bipartisan deal is reached to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the federal government. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)
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by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Senate agreed to a deal early Wednesday afternoon to raise the debt ceiling, but the clock is still ticking toward the looming deadline, as it remains unknown whether the House will vote to avoid the country's first- ever debt default.
Thursday stands as a crucial deadline -- the last day the federal government is certain to have enough money to pay its bills, and failure to raise the debt ceiling could cause all geo- economic hell to break loose, analysts said.
On Wednesday early afternoon Senate leaders said they cut a deal to avert a debt default, and Tea Party-backed senator Ted Cruz said he would not attempt to block the deal. A vote in the Senate was expected later in the day.
That may clear the way for a House vote later Wednesday, but much hinges on Obamacare. Many House members of the Tea Party have so far dug in their heels, calling for a repeal of Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare overhaul, also known as Obamacare, as those lawmakers argue Obamacare is unaffordable and unsustainable.
As of Wednesday early afternoon, it remained unknown whether the Tea Party would continue to hold out for Democrats to make concessions to repeal parts of Obamacare in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling.
Brookings Institution senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that House Speaker John Boehner has lost control of his GOP caucus.
"The Tea Party members don't want anything short of the repudiation of Obamacare," he said. "That is not acceptable to the president and he would never sign a bill that undermines his top domestic achievement."
West said the only way out is for Boehner to bring the Senate bill to the floor and allow a vote. The Senate plan would lift the debt ceiling until February and end the partial government shutdown, now in its third week.
"It can pass with mostly Democratic votes and 20-30 Republicans who would support it. If the speaker will not do that, the United States will default," he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama is also digging in his heels. Critics said he is obstinately refusing to negotiate to tweak parts of his healthcare bill, despite much popular opinion against the legislation and amid fears that the law could add debt when the country is already around 17 trillion U.S. dollars in the hole.
In line with recent trends, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that only 38 percent of Americans believe Obamacare is a good idea, although the poll did see a 7-point increase since the previous month.
With the U.S. spending heavily for more than a decade, the nation's debt stands at roughly the same size as the economy's total output value, which is nearly three times the level of debt in the year 2000.