October 4, 2013

Budget, debt unresolved on shutdown’s 3rd day

It’s possible moderate Republicans and Democrats could join forces to fully re-open the government, bypassing the Tea Party’s demands to end or delay Obamacare.

By Nedra Pickler

The Associated Press

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is pursued by reporters after a news conference about how the government shutdown is impacting on medical research, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. A funding cutoff for much of the government began Tuesday as a Republican effort to kill or delay the nation’s health care law stalled action on a short-term, traditionally routine spending bill. Lawmakers in both parties have ominously suggested the partial shutdown might last for weeks.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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President Barack Obama speaks about the government shutdown and debt ceiling Thursday during a visit to M. Luis Construction, which specializes in asphalt manufacturing, concrete paving, and roadway reconstruction, in Rockville, Md.

The Associated Press

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ROCKVILLE, Md. — Three days into a government shutdown, President Barack Obama pointedly blamed House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday for keeping federal agencies closed, while the bitter budget dispute moved closer to a more critical showdown over the nation’s line of credit. The president canceled a trip to Asia to remain in the capital as the Treasury warned of calamitous results if Congress fails to raise the debt limit.

Answering Obama, Boehner complained that the president was “steamrolling ahead” with the implementation of the nation’s new health care law. As the government operated sporadically, the stock market sank to its lowest level in nearly a month.

The shutdown was clearly leaving its mark. The National Transportation Safety Board wasn’t sending investigators to Tennessee to probe a deadly church bus crash that killed eight people and sent 14 others to the hospital. The Labor Department said it wouldn’t release the highly anticipated September jobs report on Friday because the government remains shuttered.

Late Thursday, the White House announced that Obama was abandoning an already abbreviated trip to Indonesia and Brunei next week in the face of the shutdown. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Secretary of State John Kerry would travel instead.

Earlier, outside the Capitol, shots rang out at midafternoon bringing an already tense Congress under lockdown, a nerve-wracking moment in a city still recovering from a Sept. 16 mass shooting at the Navy Yard. Authorities and witnesses said a woman tried to ram her car through a White House barricade then led police on a chase that ended in gunfire and her death outside the Capitol more than 1 mile away.

Despite the heated political rhetoric, some signs of a possible way out of the shutdown emerged. But the state of play remained in flux.

Two House Republicans said Boehner told them he would allow a House vote on restarting the entire government — but only if conservative GOP lawmakers assured him they would not attack it for failing to contain curbs on the health care law. So far they have been unwilling to give that commitment. The two spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details of private discussions.

The shutdown and the approaching debt ceiling were merging into one confrontation, raising the stakes for the president and Congress as well as for the economy.

Obama and his Treasury Department said that failure to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, expected to hit its $16.7 trillion cap in mid-October, could precipitate an economic nosedive worse than the Great Recession. A default could cause the nation’s credit markets to freeze, the value of the dollar to plummet and U.S. interest rates to skyrocket, according to the Treasury report.

Obama catalogued a litany of troubles that could be caused by the failure to raise the debt ceiling, from delayed Social Security and disability checks to worldwide economic repercussions. “If we screw up, everybody gets screwed up,” he said.

The speaker’s office reiterated Boehner’s past assertion that he would not let the United States default on its debt. “But if we’re going to raise the debt limit, we need to deal with the drivers of our debt and deficits,” his spokesman, Michael Steel, said. “That’s why we need a bill with cuts and reforms to get our economy moving again.”

Conservatives have insisted that either reopening the government or increasing the debt ceiling must be accompanied by a measure that either delays or defunds the nation’s new health care law. Absent those concessions, Republicans want cuts in spending, savings in major benefit programs and an overhaul of the tax system.

(Continued on page 2)

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