With a potential federal government shutdown looming, US President Barack Obama warned congressional Republicans they could trigger “economic chaos” if they demand a delay of his healthcare law as the price for supporting continued spending for federal operations.
House Republican leaders were to meet yesterday in hopes of finding a formula that would avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1 without alienating party conservatives, who insist on votes to undercut the Affordable Care Act. Even more daunting is a deadline next month for raising the nation’s borrowing limit, which some Republicans also want to use as leverage against the Obama administration.
“Are some of these folks really so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they’re willing to tank the entire economy just because they can’t get their way on this issue?” Obama said on Monday in a speech at the White House. “Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points?”
The Republicans do not see it that way.
US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who opposes the threat of a shutdown, said: “It’s a shame that the president could not manage to rise above partisanship today.”
Obama, Boehner said, “should be working in a bipartisan way to address America’s spending problem, the way presidents of both parties have done before,” and should delay implementation of the healthcare law.
While some conservatives supported by the tea party movement have been making shutdown threats, Senator Rand Paul said on Monday that was “a dumb idea.”
At a community meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, he said: “We should fight for what we believe in and then maybe we find something in between the two ... I am for the debate, I am for fighting. I don’t want to shut the government down, though. I think that’s a bad solution.”
Obama timed his remarks for the fifth anniversary of the bankruptcy of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers, a major early event in the near-meltdown of the US financial system and the severe global recession that preceded his presidency. He used the occasion to draw attention to the still-recovering economy and to what he called a “safer” financial system now in place.
While unemployment has dropped to 7.3 percent from a high of 10 percent and the housing market has begun to recover, the share of long-term unemployed workers is double what it was before the recession, and a homebuilding revival has yet to take hold.
Still, the National Economic Council argued Obama’s case for progress, issuing a report detailing policies that it said had helped return the nation to a path toward growth.
“After all the progress that we’ve made over these last four-and-a-half years, the idea of reversing that progress because of an unwillingness to compromise or because of some ideological agenda is the height of irresponsibility,’’ Obama said.
He reiterated his stance that he would not negotiate over the debt ceiling. Failure to raise it could lead to the first national default in US history.
Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, say the healthcare law, which has yet to take full effect, will place a burden on businesses and the public, and will damage the economy. As a result, they insist that it be starved of taxpayer money or at least delayed.