Barack Obama rejects House Republican debt plan, US shutdown continues

PTI Posted online: Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 0000 hrs
Washington : Efforts to end the US government shutdown and avoid a debt default before the October 17 deadline remained elusive as the White House today dismissed the latest House Republican proposal to resolve the impasse, alleging it was tantamount to "ransom".

"The President has said repeatedly that Members of Congress don't get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation's bills," said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage.

"Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place," she said.

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate were working in a "bipartisan, good-faith effort to end the manufactured crises" that have harmed families and business owners, she said. With only a couple of days remaining until the US exhausts its borrowing authority, it is time for the House to do the same, she added.

President Barack Obama was scheduled to meet the House Democrat leadership, including Nancy Pelosi, later in the day to chalk out their next course of action.

Earlier, House Republicans in a closed door meeting announced a plan to keep the government open until January 15, 2014 and lift the debt ceiling by February 7.

The plan under discussion would raise the USD 16.7 trillion debt ceiling by enough to cover the nation's borrowing needs at least through mid-February.

Simultaneously, the legislation would also delay the 'Obamacare' tax on medical devices for two years; cancel health-insurance subsidies for members of Congress, the President, Vice President and the cabinet; and beef up income verification requirements for Affordable Care Act subsidies.

"Our leadership team met with our members today trying to find a way forward in a bipartisan way that would continue to provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare. There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go. There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do," John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives said.

"But we're going to continue to work with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to make sure that there is no issue of default, and to reopen our government," he said.

"It's very clear in our discussions that we think individuals should be treated fairly, that big business should not have special treatment and members of Congress should not have special treatment," Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy said.

"We are very cognizant of the calendar. We want to find a solution to this in a bipartisan manner that gets us moving forward, that gets America back to working again," he said in a news conference immediately after Pelosi blamed Republicans for the current political and economic crisis.

"It appears that once again, our House Republican colleagues are prepared to put the American economy at risk to advance their political agenda," alleged Xavier Becerra, chairman of the Democrat caucus from California.

"We still have a government that is shut down, and we are on the cusp of reneging on the latter. That is unacceptable to the American people and to the world at this point," said Democrat Congressman Joe Crowley.

"Damage has already been done to the reputation of the US in terms of our abilities to pay our debts. We cannot let down the American people, and we cannot let down -- the Republican Congress cannot let down the world at this point," he said.

"There's a great deal on their shoulders, but it's time for reasonable men and women on the Republican side of the aisle and the House to step forward and tell the speaker that regardless of the small minority in their party - maybe those who are enabling that small minority- it's time to push them aside."

"They must do what is right and just for the American people and for the world, and that is to pass a bill to extend our debt ceiling and to get government opened and operating again," he told reporters at a news conference.