1 week until US govt shutdown deadline

2013-09-23 19:34

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Washington - With time running out to hammer out a deal, Republican and Democratic leaders are already for blaming each other for a partial US government shutdown that some are treating as inevitable.

The unyielding political posturing comes one week before Congress reaches a 1 October deadline to dodge any interruptions in government services.

And while work continues on a temporary spending bill, a potentially more devastating separate deadline looms a few weeks later when the government could run out of money to pay its bills.

Most party leaders don't want the first government shutdown since 1996. But over the weekend, Democrats and Republicans focused on finger-pointing in case a shutdown does occur.

The scenario has become familiar in recent years amid fierce divisions between the Obama administration and its Republican rivals. So far, the two sides have managed to come up with last-minute deals to bring the US back from the brink of shutdown or default.

At issue this time is an effort by the Republicans to tie a temporary funding bill to a provision that would defund President Barack Obama's signature domestic accomplishment - his overhaul of the health care system.

The Republican-led House of Representatives on Friday approved a legislation that would keep the government running, but also wipe out the 3-year-old health care law.

The Democratic-led Senate is virtually certain to reject the bill. And even if it passes the Senate, Obama has vowed to veto it.

Senator Ted Cruz, a favourite of the conservative tea party wing of the Republican Party, said Obama and his Democratic allies would be to blame if they don't accede to demands to strike the national health care law.

"I believe we should stand our ground," Cruz said on Fox News Sunday.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking on CNN's State of the Union, called supporters of the defund-or-else strategy "legislative arsonists".

The president had a direct message to those backing efforts to roll back his health law: "Let me say as clearly as I can: It is not going to happen."

Adding to the uncertainty is infighting within the Republican Party over how to handle the impasse.

Party leaders, fearing Republicans will be blamed for a shutdown, have indicated the House should approve the spending bill even if it comes back from the Senate shorn of the provision to defund the health care law.

But others - especially the younger lawmakers closely aligned with the tea party - have vowed to shut down the government unless they can stop the health care law from taking hold.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn said on CBS' Face the Nation that the effort would not accomplish its goal and was unrealistic.

Even if the US avoids a shutdown, the fight over the health care law promises to spill over into the looming crisis over the debt limit.

House Republicans are planning separate legislation that would attach a 1-year delay in the health care law in exchange for ability to increase the nation's credit limit of $16.7 trillion.

"I cannot believe that they are going to throw a tantrum and throw the American people and our economic recovery under the bus," Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, said on Fox News Sunday.

Read more on:    us  |  us shutdown  |  politics  |  us economy

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