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Obama cancels visit amid stalemate

Updated: 2013-10-03 06:53
By Reuters in Kuala Lumpur and Washington ( China Daily)

US President Barack Obama has canceled an official trip to Malaysia next week after the federal government went into a shutdown, Malaysian media quoted Prime Minister Najib Razak as saying on Wednesday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will represent Obama in Malaysia for the visit instead, government-linked newspapers in Malaysia said. Obama is scheduled to leave on Saturday night for what was originally a four-nation tour that also includes Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.

Obama and congressional Republicans came no closer to ending a standoff on Tuesday that has forced the first government shutdown in 17 years and thrown hundreds of thousands of federal employees out of work.

As police cordoned off landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and government agencies stopped cancer treatments and trade negotiations, Republicans in the House of Representatives moved to restore funding to national parks, veterans care and the District of Columbia.

An effort to pass the three bills fell short on Tuesday evening, but Republicans planned to try again on Wednesday. They are likely to be defeated by the Democratic-controlled Senate, which supports Obama's demand not to solve the budget crisis "piecemeal".

Democrats said Republicans were avoiding a vote to restore funding to the entire government because they were afraid it would pass.

"That's important - a park? How about the kids who need daycare?" said Democratic Representative Sander Levin of Michigan. "You have to let all the hostages go. Every single one of them."

Obama accused Republicans of taking the government hostage in order to sabotage his signature health care law, the most ambitious US social program in five decades.

"They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.

Spending authority for much of the government expired at midnight on Monday, but that did not prevent the Obama administration from opening the health-insurance exchanges that form the centerpiece of the law.

Republicans said Obama could not complain about the impact of the shutdown while refusing to negotiate. "The White House position is unsustainably hypocritical," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.

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