Obama asks Congress to open government, raise debt limit

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 07, 2013 18:20 hrs

Washington, Oct 7 (IANS) As the US federal shutdown entered its second week with no signs of an early resolution, President Barack Obama urged Congress to reopen government and raise the US debt limit immediately to avoid default.

"My very strong suspicion is there are enough votes there" to pass legislation, he said during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), challenging Republican House Speaker John Boehner to call an immediate vote on a "clean" spending bill.

Obama also told Boehner and other Republicans who want to dump, delay or change his signature healthcare law as the price for reopening the government that he is "happy" to negotiate with them on the budget, but not under the threat of a shutdown or debt default.

"There's not a subject that I am not willing to engage in, work on, negotiate and come up with compromises," he said. But "we're not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle class families."

Democrats, he said, had effectively already compromised in the budget debate by agreeing to a budget bill that has lower spending levels reflecting Republican priorities.

"It's the Republican budget," Obama said. "That's a pretty significant compromise."

Obama's remarks came during a lunchtime visit to FEMA as standing with his party's hard line conservatives, Boehner said Sunday Republicans would not budge on either issue without a "serious conversation" with Obama about spending cuts.

"The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit" -- one with no strings attached that Obama wants -- "and the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us," Boehner told ABC.

With the US expected to cross its borrowing limit Oct 17, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Sunday warned Congress is "playing with fire" by threatening to leave the US government at an "unthinkable" risk of defaulting on repaying its creditors.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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