WASHINGTON: As the United States (US) government careened toward a potentially devastating shutdown, President Barack Obama urged intransigent lawmakers Friday to end their brinkmanship and pass a spending bill.
But with barely 72 hours before agencies are forced to close their doors Tuesday and more than a million US troops remain on duty without pay, Congress appeared no closer to resolution of a fiscal crisis that looms over Washington and the nation.
And Republicans driving the agenda in the House of Representatives, which will hold an emergency session Saturday to consider legislation to keep the government open, appeared to struggle over the way forward.
The president hailed the Senate for clearing a stopgap federal funding measure Friday that knocked the ball into the House’s court, where a diehard conservative faction is bent on thwarting Obama’s health care law.
The Republican-led lower chamber will likely tweak the bill and send it back to the Senate, which could leave insufficient time for the legislation to pass both chambers before a fiscal year-end deadline of midnight Monday.
“Over the next three days, House Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open or shut it down because they can’t get their way,” Obama said.
Republicans, overwhelmingly opposed to so-called Oba-macare, inserted a provision in the House measure that strips funding for the health care law, but the Democratic-led Senate removed it and sent the bill back.
Some Republicans would now like to see the health care law fight shift to the next fiscal battle—over the debt ceiling.
The Treasury says it will reach its $16.7 trillion borrowing cap by October 17, and if Congress does not raise it the country will default on its debts for the first time in history.
The president said a default “would have a profound des-tabilizing effect on the entire economy—on the world economy.”
“We’ve got to break this cycle,” Obama added. “My message to Congress is this: do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time. Pay our bills on time.”