Obama calls on Congress to stop 'farce', end shutdown
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Saturday called on the lower chamber of Congress to "stop this farce" and end the US government shutdown by unconditionally approving a federal budget.
"Take that vote. Stop this farce. End this shutdown now," Obama said in his weekly radio and video address.
The US government closed all but its essential operations earlier in the week when Republican lawmakers refused to approve money for government operations without first delaying or defunding the new health care law, commonly known as Obamacare.
The US Senate has already approved a budget, and "there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives willing to do the same, and end this shutdown immediately," Obama said.
"But the far right of the Republican Party won't let Speaker John Boehner give that bill a yes-or-no vote."
Obama said that he "won't pay a ransom in exchange for reopening the government. And I certainly won't pay a ransom in exchange for raising the debt ceiling."
Obama is refusing to negotiate with Republicans over the budget issues until they pass a temporary bill to open the government and agree to raise the $16.7 trillion US statutory borrowing limit -- without which Washington could default on its debts for the first time ever starting on October 17.
"For as reckless as a government shutdown is, an economic shutdown that comes with default would be dramatically worse," Obama said.
Both the House and the Senate will convene rare Saturday sessions.
But some Republican pragmatists who have signaled they would vote to pass a fresh spending bill worried that such a resolution is no longer achievable.
"I think that ship has sailed," congressman Michael Grimm said on Friday.
"We're getting too close to the debt ceiling vote. It looks like the only thing that's going to work right now is a dialogue."
Boehner on Friday appeared to be equally frustrated. "This isn't some damn game," he said after a news report cited an unnamed official saying that the White House is benefiting from the shutdown.
"All we're asking for is to sit down and have a discussion, reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under 'Obamacare,'" Boehner said.
Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling in Indonesia, warned Saturday the political standoff was "reckless" and threatened to weaken the US standing abroad.
"If it were prolonged, or repeated, people would begin to question the willingness of the United States to stay the course and its ability to," Kerry told reporters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum on the Indonesian island of Bali.
"But that's not the case and I don't think it will be the case."
Obama had been due to travel to Bali for an APEC leaders' summit starting Monday, but cancelled the trip -- which would have also taken in Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines -- to deal with the government shutdown.
Kerry, who is filling in for Obama, made it clear that he believed that the Republicans blocking government spending were playing a dangerous game.
"I think it is reckless, personally, to even provide those moments where you have these risks that are exposed," Kerry said, referring to areas of spending on global security hotspots that have been suspended because of the shutdown.
Kerry also insisted that Obama's so-called strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific had not been weakened by the president cancelling his trip.
Meanwhile Kerry's predecessor, former secretary of state and possible 2014 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, decried the "scorched earth" tactics in the government shutdown.
"We watch what happens in Washington with a certain amount of bewilderment, even disgust," she said late Friday in a speech at Hamilton College in the town of Clinton, in upstate New York.
"The rest of the world watches it closely. When we let partisanship override citizenship, when we fail to make progress on the challenges facing our country, our standing in the world suffers," Clinton said.
The shutdown has forced hundreds of thousands of federal workers to stay home without pay, while monuments such as the Statue of Liberty have been barricaded and national parks closed.
Amid the acrimony over who is to blame, Democrats quietly acknowledged that the two sides had opened lines of communication, after an earlier White House meeting with Obama and top congressional leaders went nowhere.
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