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Obama: Stop this farce

04 October 2013, 10:35

Washington - The US government shutdown prompted growing concern of wider economic consequences when it stretched into a third day on Thursday, and President Barack Obama challenged Republicans to "stop this farce" by allowing a straight vote on a spending bill.

Both sides in the standoff, triggered by Republican efforts to halt Obama's healthcare reforms, appeared entrenched.

Fears grew that the crisis would merge with a more complex fight looming later this month over raising the federal debt limit and that this could stymie any attempts to end the shutdown before the middle of October.

Obama said there were enough Republicans willing to pass a spending bill immediately if House Speaker John Boehner would allow a vote on a spending bill without partisan conditions attached, a so-called clean vote.

But Obama said the speaker was refusing to do so because "he doesn't want to anger the extremists in his party".

"My simple message today is 'Call a vote'," Obama said in a speech at a construction company in Maryland. "Take a vote. Stop this farce, and end this shutdown right now."

He warned that as painful as the government shutdown was, a default caused by a failure to raise the debt limit would be dramatically worse for the economy as a whole.

Boehner's spokesperson said the speaker had "always said that the United States will not default on its debt".

"He also always says that there aren't votes in the House to pass a 'clean' debt limit bill. That's why we need a bill with cuts and reforms," the spokesperson said.

Though some moderate Republicans have begun to question their party's strategy, Boehner so far has kept them largely united behind a plan to offer a series of small bills that would re-open select parts of the government most visibly affected by the shutdown.

Democrats reject that piecemeal approach.

The Tea Party Express, one of the anti-tax groups in the conservative Tea Party that has led the fight against Obamacare, sent an email to supporters on Wednesday evening saying that as many as 12 Republicans had indicated they were willing to "give up on the fight" and join Democrats in voting for a funding bill without conditions.

"We need your immediate support to put pressure on the weak Republicans to pass a sensible solution that allows America to avoid the Obamacare train-wreck, while fully funding the federal government," the group said in its email.

The US Treasury warned about the impact of a debt default in a report on Thursday, saying a failure to pay the nation's bills could punish American families and businesses with a worse recession than the 2007-2009 downturn.

"A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, US interest rates could skyrocket," the Treasury said.

"The negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse," it said.

Obama cites Republican 'obsession'

Despite the shutdown, Republicans have failed to derail Obama's controversial healthcare law, which passed a milestone on Tuesday when it began signing up uninsured Americans for subsidized health coverage.

Obama blamed the shutdown on Republicans' "obsession" with reversing healthcare reforms passed in the Affordable Care Act, but noted they had passed the House of Representatives and the Senate and been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court.

"Last November the voters rejected the presidential candidate that ran on a platform to repeal it," he said on Thursday. "So the Affordable Care Act has gone through every single democratic process, all three branches of government. It's the law of the land. It's here to stay."

- Reuters

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