CAMBRIDGE, Maryland (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives struggled on Friday to reach consensus on a strategy for lifting the federal debt limit but decided what they don't want - a "clean" increase and a default crisis, a senior Republican lawmaker said.
Representative Tom Cole, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner, said that House Republicans still had not settled the conditions they would attach to any increase, and were "working through" their strategy.
"There's a recognition that the debt ceiling is going to be raised, and that's critical for the financial markets and the financial system. But while we work with the president on that, what can we get that's common ground?" Cole told Reuters in an interview after a three-day House Republican retreat in Cambridge, Maryland.
The meeting ended with cancellation of a scheduled news briefing.
Congress has a month to negotiate and pass an increase in the $17 trillion debt cap. The U.S. Treasury estimates that it would exhaust all remaining borrowing capacity by the end of February, which would increase the risk debt default and rattle markets.
Cole said party members want to attach "something substantial" to the increase that can boost growth or help reduce deficits but also gain some Democratic support.
"Clearly, we don't agree with the president that we should just raise the debt ceiling and do nothing about the debt," the Oklahoma congressman said. "But we're trying to be reasonable and find something."
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)