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Obama cancels part of Asia trip because of shutdown

US President Barack Obama has canceled part of his trip to Asia next week amid the government shutdown. The standstill has entered its second day, sending about 800,000 government employees home on unpaid leave.

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Government shutdown felt already

President Barack Obama has scrapped the Malaysia and Philippines portions of a four-country Asia trip because of the US government shutdown, the White House announced on Wednesday.

The State Department said Obama telephoned Philippine President Benigno Aquino early Wednesday to share the news.

Obama reaffirmed, however, the countries' "strong alliance," and cited the "deep ties between our peoples, including so many Filipino-Americans who have enriched our country," the statement said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Wednesday that "Obama expressed his disappointment that he was unable to visit Malaysia as scheduled," according to the Malaysian Insider news website.

"However, the Secretary of State John Kerry will come ... as Obama's representative," Razak said.

Obama is scheduled to leave for the trip on Saturday. He plans to attend international summits in Indonesia and Brunei, but the White House said these plans are subject to change.

Second day of shutdown

The crisis came to a head on Monday as Congress failed to reach agreement on budget funding before a midnight deadline. Republicans have sought to halt the progress of the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature piece of healthcare legislation, as a condition for funding the government.

Republicans have also indicated that they are opposed to raising the country's $16.7 trillion (12.35-trillion-euro) debt ceiling without concessions from the White House.

Following the shutdown, national monuments were barricaded and some 800,000 government employees were sent home on unpaid leave.

New borrowing above the fiscal ceiling will be required by October 17, or some bills will go unpaid.

In a speech at the White House on Tuesday, Obama accused Republicans of embarking on "an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans."

Republicans said they would reframe the legislation as a regular bill to be put to the chamber on Wednesday.

White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage has said that Obama would veto any targeted bills. "These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government," Brundage said.

"The president and the Senate have been clear that they won't accept this kind of game-playing, and if these bills were to come to the president's desk, he would veto them," she said.

hc/mkg (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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