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Boehner pledges to avoid default, Republicans say

WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner has privately told Republican lawmakers anxious about fallout from the ongoing government shutdown that he would not allow a potentially more crippling federal default as the atmosphere on Capitol Hill turned increasingly tense Thursday.

Boehner’s comments, recounted by multiple lawmakers, that he would use a combination of Republican and Democratic votes to increase the federal debt limit if necessary appeared aimed at reassuring his colleagues — and nervous financial markets — that he did not intend to let the economic crisis spiral further out of control.

They came even though he has so far refused to allow a vote on a Senate budget measure to end the shutdown that many believe could pass with bipartisan backing. They also reflect Boehner’s view that a default would have widespread and long-term economic consequences while the shutdown, though disruptive, has had more limited impact.

Along with Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, Boehner has long dismissed the idea that Congress would not act to prevent a damaging default, and President Barack Obama on Thursday called a default “the height of irresponsibility.” But the failure of the House and Senate to reach a deal ahead of the shutdown has raised questions of whether Republicans could be persuaded to join in raising the debt limit before the Treasury Department runs out of money in mid-October.

His comments were read by members of both parties as renewing his determination on the default and came as the Treasury warned that an impasse over raising the debt limit might prove catastrophic and potentially result “in a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.”

Lawmakers said that in recent days, Boehner, who is under attack from Democrats over his handling of the shutdown, has made clear that he is willing to use a combination of Republican and Democratic votes on the debt limit if need be. One lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Boehner suggested that he would be willing to violate the Hastert Rule to pass a debt-limit increase. The informal rule refers to a policy of not bringing to the floor any measure that does not have a majority of Republican votes.

—Ashley Parker and Annie Lowrey, The New York Times

France moves in UN to stabilize Central African Republic

France is drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at stabilizing the Central African Republic, the chronically dysfunctional country in which a transitional government has failed to stop months of lawless rampaging, atrocities and dire shortages that are attracting extremist militants from neighboring states.

Diplomats at the United Nations said Thursday that the resolution by France, the former colonial ruler of the Central African Republic, would demand the transitional government’s compliance with previous promises of free and fair elections and unfettered access by aid groups delivering emergency relief supplies.

It would threaten unspecified sanctions against “those who take action that undermines the peace, stability and security, including those who violate transitional agreements, impede the transitional process and fuel violence,” according to portions of a draft text shared by diplomats. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the text is still under revision.

The resolution, which could be brought to a vote in coming days, would also raise the possibility of converting a proposed African Union force for the country, known as the International Support Mission in the Central African Republic, into a U.N. peacekeeping operation, which would give it more resources and power. The resolution would further raise the possibility of creating a special guard force just to protect U.N. facilities in the country.

—Rick Gladstone, The New York Times