Thu, Oct 03, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Obama’s Asia trip cut as shutdown continues

SCUTTLED:Obama accused Republicans of taking the government hostage to sabotage his healthcare law, the most ambitious US social program in five decades

Reuters, WASHINGTON

A protester covers his mouth with a dollar bill as he joins others in a demonstration in front of Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday urging the US Congress to pass a budget bill.

Photo: AFP

US President Barack Obama yesterday scrapped part of a long-planned trip to Asia and left the remainder of the trip in doubt as a US government shutdown entered a second day with no end in sight to the funding battle in US Congress that triggered it.

Obama scuttled two stops on a planned four-country tour and left visits to two other countries up in the air, according to White House statements.

The president told his counterparts in Malaysia and the Philippines he would not be able to meet them as planned and a White House official said the president was weighing whether to attend diplomatic summits in Indonesia and Brunei.

“We will continue to evaluate those trips based on how events develop throughout the course of the week,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

Obama was originally due to leave the US on Saturday and return a week later.

Not only must the president deal with the budget impasse and its effects, but he faces an even bigger crunch in Congress, which will put the US at risk of defaulting on its debts if it does not raise the US public debt ceiling. US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew has said the US will exhaust its borrowing authority no later than Oct. 17.

The fight between Obama’s Democrats and the Republicans over the government’s borrowing power is rapidly merging with the standoff over everyday funding, which led to the first government shutdown in 17 years and forced hundreds of thousands of federal employees to take unpaid leave.

The announcements about the Asia trip followed a fruitless day on Capitol Hill, with congressional Democrats and Republicans coming no closer to resolving their differences.

Obama accused Republicans of taking the government hostage to sabotage his signature healthcare law, the most ambitious US social program in five decades, passed three years ago.

Republicans in the House of Representatives view the Affordable Care Act as a dangerous extension of government power and have coupled their efforts to undermine it with continued efforts to block government funding. The Democratic-controlled Senate has repeatedly rejected those efforts.

“This is a mess. A royal screw-up,” Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter of New York said.

As police cordoned off landmarks and government agencies stopped functions, Republicans in the House sought to restore funding to national parks, veterans’ care and the District of Columbia.

An effort to pass the three bills fell short on Tuesday evening, but Republicans planned to try again yesterday. They were likely to be defeated by the Senate.

“That’s important — a park? How about the kids who need daycare?” Democratic Representative Sander Levin said. “You have to let all the hostages go. Every single one of them.”

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