Washington still deadlocked on partial government shutdown

Updated: 2013-10-06 07:03

By Agencies in Washington and Bali, Indonesia (China Daily)

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United States

Washington headed into the fifth day of a partial government shutdown on Saturday with no end in sight even as another, more serious conflict over raising the nation's borrowing authority started heating up.

The US House of Representatives prepared for a Saturday session but with no expectations of progress on either the shutdown or a measure to raise the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. Congress must act by Oct 17 in order to avoid a government debt default.

On Friday, Republican House Speaker John Boehner tried to rebuff reports that he would ease the way to a debt ceiling increase, stressing that Republicans would continue to insist on budget cuts as a condition of raising the borrowing authority.

On the shutdown, Boehner said Republicans were holding firm in their demand that in exchange for passing a bill to fund and reopen the government, President Barack Obama and his Democrats must agree to delay implementation of Obama's healthcare law.

The launch date for Obamacare health insurance exchanges came and went on Oct 1, meaning Republicans are now in a more difficult political position of trying to stop something that has already begun.

Nerves and sometimes tempers frayed on Friday after several weeks of long sessions of Congress and nonstop posturing.

"This isn't some damn game," said Boehner, responding to a Wall Street Journal article that quoted an unidentified White House official saying Democrats were "winning" the shutdown battle.

Obama reiterated that while he was willing to negotiate with the Republicans, "We can't do it with a gun held to the head of the American people."

As the president visited a downtown Washington lunch spot that was offering a discount to furloughed federal government workers, he told reporters, "There's no winning when families don't have certainty over whether they're going to get paid or not."

On Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Congress to end the partial government shutdown and think "long and hard" about the message the US sends the world when "we can't get our own act together".

Kerry is in Bali for the economic summit of Asian leaders. President Barack Obama had planned to attend, but canceled his travel plans to remain in Washington and deal with the shutdown. Kerry is now heading the US delegation in the talks.

Kerry said that the US' "friends and foes" around the world should not mistake the government shutdown as anything other than a "moment of politics".

"When we get this moment of political silliness behind us we will get back on a track the world will respect and want to be part of," he said.

Reuters-AP

(China Daily 10/06/2013 page2)