No end to US shutdown stalemate as both sides dig in
Washington – An early end to US shutdown is not in sight with the Republicans insisting on concessions to reopen the government or raise the country’s debt limit and the Obama administration accusing them of “playing with fire”.
Standing with his party’s hard line conservatives, House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday Republicans would not budge on either issue without a “serious conversation” with President Barack Obama about spending cuts without any tax increases.
“The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit” — one with no strings attached that Obama wants — “and the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us”, Boehner told ABC as the shutdown headed into its second week.
With the US expected to cross its borrowing limit Oct 17, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Congress is “playing with fire” by threatening to leave the US government at an “unthinkable” risk of defaulting on repaying its creditors.
“We’ve never gotten to the point where the United States government has operated without the ability to borrow,” Lew told CNN. “It’s very dangerous. It’s reckless, because the reality is, there are no good choices if we run out of borrowing capacity and we run out of cash.”
In the 2011 debt-ceiling standoff, Congress and the administration agreed to $2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts over a decade. Though default was narrowly averted, the crisis spurred one of the top three bond-rating houses, Standard and Poor’s, to cut the US credit rating for the first time.
Republicans in the House are insisting on dumping or delaying Obama’s signature healthcare law nicknamed Obamacare as the price of ending the government shutdown that has placed more than 800,000 federal workers have been on unpaid leave since then.
Obama and his Democrats unwilling to compromise on Obamacare have put the blame squarely on Boehner and challenged him to put to vote a Senate-approved measure to temporarily fund the government that they say was sure to be passed with bipartisan support.
But Boehner told ABC Sunday he doesn’t have the votes to end the standoff. “I have 233 Republicans in the House, and you’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country,” he said.
“They believe that Obamacare, all these regulations coming out of the administration, are threatening the future for our kids and our grandkids. It is time for us to stand and fight.”
Ted Cruz, a tea party-backed Republican seen as the prime mover of the hard line, told CNN “The debt ceiling historically has been among the best leverage that Congress has to rein in the executive.”
He said Republicans should demand “some significant structural plan and reduce government spending” as a condition of raising the borrowing limit, as well as “ways to mitigate the harms from Obamacare”.