US treasury warns about cash shortages as budget row intensifies
Republican senator speaks for 21 hours in opposition to Obama’s healthcare law
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to the press after leaving the Senate Chamber after a marathon attack on “Obamacare,” at the US Capitol in Washington. Photograph: Reuters
The US treasury department has warned Congress it will run out of cash by mid-October and face a first-time default on its debts if lawmakers do not vote to raise the country’s borrowing limit.
The warning the US would have just $30 billion (€22 billion) in cash on hand by October 17th while facing daily expenditure bills of up to $60 billion came as Republicans in the lower House of Representatives stepped up efforts to derail President Obama’s signature healthcare bill.
House Republicans voted to make a short-term budget conditional on the Affordable Care Act being stripped of funding, threatening a US government shutdown on October 1st, the first since 1996.
The party has since started debating how to unwind the law, better known as Obamacare, by linking a Congressional deal on an increase in the so-called debt ceiling beyond $16.7 trillion to defunding Obamacare.
“The president remains willing to negotiate over the future direction of fiscal policy, but he will not negotiate over whether the United States will pay its bills for past commitments,” US treasury secretary Jack Lew warned in a letter to the speaker of the House, John Boehner, a Republican.
Cruz urged his party to block the Democrats passing the stopgap budget without Obamacare being defunded.
In a dramatic overnight speech, Cruz spoke on subjects ranging from his favourite fast-food restaurants and footwear to US military history and the children’s book Green Eggs and Ham.
“This fight is not about personalities,” Cruz said in a rambling address that ended at 12 noon yesterday. “Look, most Americans could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians in Washington. Who cares? You know, almost all of us are in cheap suits with bad haircuts.”
The Democrat-led Senate, despite Cruz’s epic filibuster, advanced toward passing a stop-gap funding bill to avert a government shutdown in six days.
The Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is expected to strip the Obamacare defunding provision from the bill before returning it to the Republican-controlled House.