WASHINGTON -- All but five House Democrats have signed a letter urging House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on a "clean" continuing resolution bill, meaning the legislation appears to have the support of a majority of House members.
A clean bill is one that would not link funding the government to funding for Obama's health-care law.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released the letter, which bears the signatures of 195 of the chamber's 200 Democrats.
"We demand a vote on a clean continuing resolution immediately so that government functioning can resume and Americans can move on with their lives," the members said.
A majority: Combine those 195 Democrats with the 22 House Republicans who have signaled support for a clean resolution, and you get 217 members, which is a bare majority of the chamber's 432 members.
The Senate already passed the bill, but House GOP leaders have declined to bring it to a vote over the objections of Democrats who argue it's a quick and easy way to end the government shutdown. The measure would go to President Obama's desk immediately upon passage.
Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have questioned in recent days whether the bill actually has majority support.
"There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR," Boehner said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Default? Meanwhile, the government shutdown entered its second week with no end in sight and with ominous signs the United States is closer to the first default in the nation's
history as Boehner ruled out any measure to boost borrowing authority without concessions from Obama.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Sunday the budget brinkmanship was "playing with fire" and implored Congress to pass legislation to reopen the government and increase the nation's $16.7 trillion debt limit. Lew reiterated that Obama has no intention to link either bill to Republican demands for changes in the 3-year-old health care law and spending cuts.
A defiant Boehner insisted Obama must negotiate if the president wants to end the shutdown and avert a default that could trigger a financial crisis and recession that would echo 2008 or worse. The 2008 financial crisis plunged the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The shutdown has pushed hundreds of thousands of workers off the job, closed national parks and museums and stopped an array of government services.
Back to work: The one bright spot on Monday is a significant chunk of the furloughed federal work force is headed back to work. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered nearly 350,000 back on the job, basing his decision on a Pentagon interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act.
Those who remain at home or are working without paychecks are a step closer to getting back pay once the partial government shutdown ends. The Senate could act this week on the measure that passed the House unanimously Saturday.
In a series of Sunday television appearances, Lew warned that on Oct. 17, he exhausts the bookkeeping maneuvers he has been using to keep borrowing.
"I'm telling you that on the 17th, we run out of the ability to borrow, and Congress is playing with fire," Lew said.
Out of money: Lew said that while Treasury expects to have $30 billion of cash on hand on Oct. 17, that money will be quickly exhausted in paying incoming bills given that the government's payments can run up to $60 billion on a single day.
Private economists generally agree that a default on the U.S. debt would be extremely harmful, especially if the impasse was not resolved quickly.
"If they don't pay on the debt, that would cost us for generations to come," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. He said a debt default would be a "cataclysmic" event that would roil financial markets in the United States and around the world.
Zandi said that holders of U.S. Treasury bonds would demand higher interest rates which would cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars in higher interest payments in coming years on the national debt.
Some Republicans, such as Rep. Steve King of Iowa, dismiss the warnings about a government default as an exaggeration, suggesting U.S. credit won't collapse and calling the talk "a lot of false demagoguery."