Washington heads into fifth day of shutdown, no end in sight
By Thomas Ferraro and Caren Bohan (Reuters)WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington headed into the fifth day of a partial government shutdown with no end in sight even as another, more serious conflict over raising the nation's borrowing authority started heating up.
October 5, 2013, 2:37 pm TWN
The U.S. House of Representatives prepared for a Saturday session but with no expectations of progress on either the shutdown or a measure to raise the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. Congress must act by October 17 in order to avoid a government debt default.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner tried on Friday to squelch reports that he would ease the way to a debt ceiling increase, stressing that Republicans would continue to insist on budget cuts as a condition of raising the borrowing authority.
On the shutdown, Boehner said Republicans were holding firm in their demand that in exchange for passing a bill to fund and reopen the government, President Barack Obama and his Democrats must agree to delay implementation of Obama's health care law.
The launch date for Obamacare health insurance exchanges came and went on October 1, meaning Republicans are now in a more difficult political position of trying to stop something that has already begun.
Although essential government functions like national security and air traffic control continue, the economic and policy effects of the shutdown are amplified the longer hundreds of thousands of federal workers remain at home and unpaid.
Negotiations on tax and free trade treaties are on hold, enforcement of sanctions against Iran and Syria are being hindered, and a government tester of dangerous consumer products spends his days at home.
Nerves and sometimes tempers frayed on Friday after several weeks of long sessions of Congress and non-stop posturing.
"This isn't some damn game," said Boehner, responding to a Wall Street Journal article that quoted an unidentified White House official saying Democrats were "winning" the shutdown battle.
The Democratic president reiterated that he was willing to negotiate with Republicans, but said, "We can't do it with a gun held to the head of the American people."
"There's no winning when families don't have certainty over whether they're going to get paid or not," Obama told reporters when he visited a downtown Washington lunch spot that was offering a discount to furloughed federal government workers.
The shutdown began on Tuesday when the Republican-led House of Representatives refused to approve a bill funding the government unless it included measures designed to delay or defund key provisions of Obama's signature legislation, the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which are now being implemented.
Obama again appealed to Boehner to bring a "clean" funding bill - without reference to the health reforms - to a vote in the House, where many Democrats believe it could pass with a combination of Democrats and a few of the majority Republicans.