Republicans raise risk of government shutdown in opposition to health law
Obama accuses ‘faction’ of Republicans in House of trying to ‘extort a president’
US President Barack Obama said the US should not have to endure threats of “apocalypse” during regular decisions on budgetary matters. Photograph: Getty
The likelihood of a US government shutdown increased as Republicans said they would vote to make a stopgap measure to finance the government conditional on US president Barack Obama’s flagship healthcare law being stripped of funding.
Mr Obama accused a “faction” of Republicans in the House of Representatives of trying to “extort a president” by threatening to shut down the government or default on US loans if he did not repeal the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare passed during his first term in office.
In the latest in a series of long-running skirmishes with the White House over government spending, House Republican leaders bowed to pressure from the conservative wing of their party and agreed to ballot members tomorrow on tying new government spending to defunding Obamacare.
The US is facing two financial deadlines over the coming weeks, leading to the latest showdown.
Congress must pass another temporary measure, known as a continuing resolution, by September 30th to keep federal agencies funded and to avoid the first government shutdown since 1996.
Lawmakers must also agree a routine raising of the US borrowing limit, the so-called debt ceiling, above $16.7 trillion (€12.4 trillion) by mid-October to avoid the damaging effect of the US defaulting on its loans.
Republicans argue that Obamacare will cost jobs. “The law’s a train wreck,” said House speaker John Boehner, a Republican. “It’s time to protect American families from this unworkable law.”
The legislation, which has yet to be implemented, will require businesses to provide health insurance to full-time staff or face severe penalties in an effort by the Obama administration to address the problem of about 30 millions Americans not having health insurance.
The Democrat-led Senate is expected to reject the proposed budgetary plan passed by the Republican-controlled House, pushing negotiations to agree a deal on government funding right to the wire.
The decision of Republicans to threaten a government shutdown or US debt default as political leverage on Obamacare angered the president.
“You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling, or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling, being used to extort a president of a governing party, and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and have nothing to do with the debt,” said Mr Obama.
Speaking at a meeting of businesspeople, Mr Obama said he did not want to start a habit where “the full faith and credit” of the US “ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy”.
The US should not have to endure “terrifying brinkmanship” and threats of “apocalypse” during regular decisions on budgetary matters, he said, ruling out any negotiations on the debt ceiling increase.
Mr Boehner rejected the notion that Republicans had any interest in shutting down the government. “Our goal here is to cut spending and to protect the American people from Obamacare,” he said.