* Republican Boehner: "This is not some damn game"
* Obama says will not negotiate with a gun to Americans'
* Obama rejects acting on piecemeal funding bills
By Thomas Ferraro and Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON, Oct 4 House Republicans held their
ground on Friday in a standoff with President Barack Obama over
the U.S. government shutdown, accusing him of intransigence and
not caring about the impact on the American people as the crisis
dragged into a fourth day.
As Republicans and Democrats remained deadlocked over the
shutdown, which was triggered by a dispute over the president's
healthcare reforms, the two sides also dug in over a measure to
raise the nation's borrowing authority. It must be approved by
Congress by October 17 to avoid a government default.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner tried to
squelch 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.
"This isn't some damn game," said an exasperated Boehner,
responding to a Wall Street Journal article that quoted an
unnamed White House official saying Democrats were "winning" the
Obama reiterated that he was willing to negotiate with
Republicans, but said, "We can't do it with a gun held to the
head of the American people...."
"There's no winning when families don't have certainty over
whether they're going to get paid or not," Obama told reporters
when he paid a visit to a downtown Washington lunch spot that
was offering a discount to furloughed workers.
The shutdown began October 1 when the Republican House of
Representatives refused to approve a bill funding the government
unless it included provisions designed to delay or defund
Obama's healthcare reforms, which are now being implemented.
Obama again appealed to Boehner to bring a "clean" funding
bill - without reference to the health reforms - to a vote in
the House, where many Democrats believe it could pass with a
combination of Democrats and a few of the majority Republicans.
Boehner again declined to do that. A powerful conservative
element in his party has insisted there should be no vote unless
Obama makes concessions on his healthcare reforms.
Democrats in the House were considering whether they could
use a maneuver that would force a vote on legislation to reopen
the government immediately, according to a House aide who asked
not to be identified.
The aide did not provide details. The rarely used and
time-consuming "discharge petition" maneuver normally dislodges
a bill from a committee and sends it to the House floor if 218
lawmakers sign the petition in the 435-member chamber.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney said it was "utterly false"
to suggest Obama did not want a speedy end to the shutdown. "We
want this to end now. Period," he said.
In light of the stalemate, Obama has canceled plans for a
visit to a number of Asian countries next week.
The government was obliged to close many of its operations
because Congress failed to pass a spending bill by Oct. 1, the
start of the new fiscal year.
The possibility of the United States defaulting on its
financial obligations if there is no agreement to raise the debt
ceiling has rattled financial markets around the world amid
fears it could derail the fragile economic recovery.
Facing public anger over the government shutdown, the House
has adopted a strategy of voting piecemeal to fund publicly some
federal agencies - like the Veterans Administration, the
National Park Service and the National Institutes of Health -
that are partially closed.
Republicans know that neither the Democratic-controlled
Senate nor Obama will agree to that approach, but it allows them
to accuse Democrats of working against the interests of
veterans, national parks and cancer patients.
Democrats demand that a broad spending bill be passed.
"PIECEMEAL" FUNDING BILLS
House Republicans on Thursday lined up 11 bills to fund
targeted programs. They were: nutrition programs for low-income
women and their children; a program to secure nuclear weapons
and non-proliferation; food and drug safety; intelligence
gathering; border patrols; American Indian and Alaska Native
health and education programs; weather monitoring; Head Start
school programs for the poor and other aid for schools that rely
heavily on federal assistance.
With a major storm approaching the Gulf coast, disaster
assistance was also slated for temporary renewal under the House
The bills were likely to be debated by the full House in the
coming days, though not all at once. The Democratic-controlled
Senate says it will reject the measures and Obama has said he
would veto them.
Congress was moving to pass legislation, which Obama
supports, to retroactively pay federal workers once the
The government shutdown and impending debt deadline in the
United States kept the dollar near an eight-month low despite
signs of a recovery on Friday.
The shutdown and the possible failure to raise the debt
ceiling, have prompted a number of warnings from big business.
AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson, addressing a
possible default, said in a statement, "It would be the height
of irresponsibility for any public official to consider such a
course. In fact, even the discussion of default poses great risk
to our economy and to our country."
The government's September employment report, the most
widely watched economic data both on Wall Street and Main
Street, had been scheduled for release on Friday but was a
casualty of the shutdown.