Bloomberg News

Obama Challenges Boehner to Hold Vote on Funding to End Shutdown

October 03, 2013

President Barack Obama urged House Speaker John Boehner to hold a vote on funding federal operations without strings attached, saying the Republican leader’s refusal to do so is the only thing standing in the way of reopening of the U.S. government.

“Call a vote. Put it on the floor. And let every individual member of Congress make up their own minds.” Obama said in a speech today in the Washington suburbs, as the partial closing entered its third day.

He also said that if Republicans hold up raising the federal debt ceiling to press their demands it would cause “dramatically worse” consequences for the U.S. economy.

Talks last night between congressional leaders and the president failed to break the fiscal stalemate, with both sides repeating the positions they’ve held for weeks. Obama and his Democratic allies say Republicans must end the shutdown and raise the country’s debt ceiling before they will enter talks on broader budget issues. Republicans, pushed by their anti-tax Tea Party wing, want to use the fiscal deadlines to delay or defund Obama’s health care law, the signature domestic policy achievement of his presidency.

“They will not negotiate,” House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said after the hour-long meeting at the White House.

Obama said today that if a measure to keep the federal government operating was put to a vote it would pass both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support.

Party Factions

“The only thing that is keeping the government shut down,” Obama said today, speaking at a construction company in Rockville, Maryland, “is that Speaker John Boehner won’t even let the bill get to a yes or no vote because he doesn’t want to anger the extremists in his party.”

The partial shutdown put about 800,000 federal employees out of work and shuttered many government functions, including infant nutrition aid, national parks and Internal Revenue Service audits. Other services, such as air-traffic control and Social Security benefits, were operating.

A one-week partial shutdown would probably shave 0.1 percentage point from economic growth, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, with the costs accelerating if the closing persists.

The effects of failing to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling would be more consequential. The government will run out of borrowing authority Oct. 17, according to the Treasury Department.

Market Reaction

U.S. stocks fell for a second day as the deadlock in Washington combined with data showing a decline in a service industries index and an increase in jobless claims weighed on markets.

The Standard & Poor’s (SPX) 500 Index fell 0.8 percent to 1,680.35 at 11:07 a.m. in New York, below its lowest close in almost a month.

Markets should be “concerned” about the possibility of default, Obama said on CNBC yesterday after meeting with chief executives of financial-services companies including Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) and Brian Moynihan of Bank of America Corp. (BAC:US)

To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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