Washington, Oct 4: President Barack Obama called off plans to attend two summits in Indonesia and Brunei as the government shutdown stalemate continued for the fourth day even as hopes rose on the looming debt limit crisis.
Instead, Secretary of State John Kerry, already on a trip to Asia will lead the US delegation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali and the Asia security summit in Brunei.
Obama, who had earlier cancelled visits to Malaysia and the Philippines, “made this decision based on the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown, and his determination to continue pressing his case that Republicans should immediately allow a vote to reopen the government”, the White House said.
The announcement came as the Republican House Speaker John Boehner showed no inclination to hold a quick vote on a “clean” spending bill with no conditions to dump or delay his signature healthcare law, but reportedly told his party members he won’t let the nation default on its debt.
However, on the issue of government shutdown the two sides appeared no closer to an agreement with the Democrats insisting on a “clean” budget and Republicans suggesting a piecemeal approach to reopen the national parks and run a few other essential services first.
Boehner and his fellow Republican lawmakers are meeting to discuss the government shutdown Friday, a day after saying he would be willing to rely on Democrats to act on the debt-limit crisis even if a majority of the Republicans don’t agree.
Congressional Republicans remain divided on how to structure legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling to avoid having the US default on its obligations. Officials say US is set to to run out of money to cover its roughly $16.7 trillion debt by Oct 17.
Boehner’s reported willingness to turn to Democrats to prevent a US debt default came shortly after Obama and his Treasury Department warned that a default on US debts would be worse than the closure and could trigger another global financial crisis like the one in 2008.
“As reckless as a government shutdown is … an economic shutdown that results from default would be dramatically worse,” Obama said during an appearance Thursday at a construction company in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington.
With no end to the stalemate in sight, Obama suggested Boehner is preventing a vote on a funding bill because he doesn’t want to anger tea party “extremists” in his party, who want to derail his signature healthcare law.
Boehner is the only thing standing in the way of reopening the federal government, he said calling on the Republican leader to bring a “clean” bill before the House and predicting it would pass with bipartisan support.
Democratic controlled Senate has rejected three attempts by Republican-run House to pass a bill paying for government services while also trying to delay all or parts of the health care law.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)