President Barack Obama has criticized the Republican speaker of the lower house of Congress, John Boehner, for the government shutdown in the US. He said Boehner was being held hostage by "extremists" in his own party.
Barack Obama on Thursday said that the speaker in the Republican-led House of Representatives, John Boehner, could end a "reckless" US government shutdown in a matter of moments.
"There's only one way out of this reckless and damaging Republican shutdown. Congress has to pass a budget that funds our government with no partisan strings attached," Obama said during a speech in the Washington D.C. suburbs. "Take a vote, stop this farce and end this shutdown right now."
Obama was speaking after the US Treasury had warned that the shutdown, if prolonged, could lead to the US defaulting on its debts.
"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 Department said in a report. "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."
Federal government services and programs deemed nonessential were shut down on Tuesday, after the houses of Congress on Monday missed a midnight deadline to agree on terms for raising the country's debt ceiling. The deadline coincided with the start of the government's new fiscal year.
Republicans in the House of Representatives sought to tie raising the $16.7-trillion (12.35-trillion-euro) debt limit to a one-year suspension of the introduction of a key element of the healthcare reforms championed by Obama in his first presidential election campaign in 2008. These proposals were rejected by the Democrat-led Senate.
As of Tuesday, Americans planning to purchase health insurance using the Affordable Care Act - often dubbed Obamacare - could search for the best provider online using a government platform.
Both parties appear unwilling to budge on this healthcare issue: The Democrats portray it as an issue that has twice won a popular mandate in presidential elections, while Republicans argue that the law constitutes federal government overreach.
Estimates suggest that a deal must be reached before October 17, otherwise the US could run the risk of default.
"If there is a bump in the economic road if there is a political penalty to be paid, we can recover from those things," Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa told CNN. "But we can never recover if Obamacare is implemented on the American people, and it will diminish the trajectory of the American destiny by turning us into a dependency society."
Obama, on the other hand, accused Boehner on Thursday of being held hostage by the "extremists" in his party on a single policy point. The president suggested that both houses of Congress should sign a temporary operating budget with no partisan strings attached to stave off default.
"Speaker John Boehner won't even let the bill get a yes or no vote [in the lower house], because he doesn't want to anger the extremists in his party," Obama said, also predicting that, in the event of such a bill being put to Congress: "It will pass. Send me the bill, I will sign it. The shutdown will be over and we can get back to the business of governing and helping the American people."
Roughly 800,00 federal government employees whose roles are considered nonessential are set to remain on unpaid leave until the impasse is resolved.
msh/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)