A partisan political row in the United States is again threatening to shut down the government. The bitter dispute pits the Republican-controlled House of Representatives against the Democrat-controlled Senate.
On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a temporary funding bill that will keep the government operating beyond October 1, the start of the 2014 fiscal year. However, lawmakers, who voted 230-189 to pass the measure, also linked it to a provision to withdraw funding from a public heath care law championed by President Barack Obama.
The Republicans, who hold a majority in the House, have been trying to repeal the health care package, dubbed "Obamacare," ever since it was passed over three years ago.
Following the vote, House Speaker John Boehner (pictured above) described it as a victory for both the American people and common sense.
"Our message to the United States Senate is real simple: The American people don't want the government shutdown and they don't want Obamacare," Boehner said.
That victory, though, promises to be short-lived, as the Republicans passed the bill in the full knowledge that the Democrats would use their majority in the Senate to vote it down in the coming days.
"The Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare," Majority Leader Harry Reid said following the House vote. If the bill or some other measure isn't adopted by October 1, the US government could default on its debt.
President Obama reacted to the news of Friday's votes by accusing the Republicans of "holding the whole country hostage."
"We're not some banana republic. This isn't some deadbeat nation," Obama told workers at an automobile factory in the Midwest state of Missouri.
"The entire world looks to us to make sure the world economy is stable. We can't just not pay our bills. And even threatening something like that is the height of irresponsibility," he added.
The president also used a telephone conversation with Boehner to warn that he would not compromise on another bill that is soon to be presented to Congress that would raise the government's borrowing authority. Washington is rapidly approaching the current $16.7 trillion (11.8 trillion euros) limit. House Republicans are reportedly already considering a series of controversial provisions to attach to that bill.
pfd/av (AP, AFP, Reuters)