WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama decided to stay home from economic summits in Asia as Democrats stepped up pressure on congressional Republicans to rein in their tea party faction and reopen the government with no strings attached.
House Republicans said that with Congress and the president in town this weekend, now is the perfect time to start negotiating a plan to reopen the government.
“All I’m asking for is let’s sit down, like the American people would expect us, and talk to one another about getting the government open and dealing with the significant problems that we face,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Friday. “This isn’t some damn game.”
GOP leaders said Friday the House will be in session Saturday so that Republicans can continue passing bills that would reopen selected parts of the federal government. The White House responded by issuing fresh veto threats, saying Congress should reopen the entire federal government.
The Labor Department, meanwhile, did not issue the monthly employment report for September that was due Friday because of the shutdown.
The White House called the partial government shutdown that entered its fourth day Friday “completely avoidable” and complained the shutdown was interfering with the president’s efforts to promote trade and U.S. influence in emerging world markets.
Democrats pointed to disagreements within the Republican Party, where reluctant congressional leaders were prodded into a showdown over government funding and Obama’s health care law by rowdier conservatives, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
To get the government up and running again, “it will take some coming together on the Republican side,” said the House’s lead Democrat, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.
“It’s very hard to negotiate with the Republicans when they can’t negotiate with themselves,” Pelosi said Friday.
Senate Chaplain Barry Black opened Friday’s business with a plea for God to “give our lawmakers the vision and the willingness to see and to do your will.”
“Remove from them that stubborn pride which imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism. Forgive them for the blunders they have committed, infusing them with the courage to admit and correct mistakes,” Black said.
Obama criticized Boehner for not bringing up a vote to finance the full reopening of the government without conditions.
“This shutdown could be over today,” Obama said Friday as he stopped for lunch with Vice President Joe Biden at a local sandwich shop near the White House. “We know there are votes for it in the House.”
Boehner and other Republicans put the blame on Obama. They say he should recognize the flaws of “Obamacare” and negotiate solutions as part of a deal to end the shutdown that forced the furlough of some 800,000 workers, more than a third of federal civilian employees.
Boehner said Obama was being “irresponsible.”
On Friday, the Republican-led House was keeping up a drive to finance certain agencies and programs on a piecemeal basis — a strategy rejected by Obama and the Democratic-led Senate.
“We are not picking winners and losers,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. “I think what we are doing is exercising stewardship over the taxpayers’ dollars. …I’m ready to go to work today and get it done.”
The House planned a vote to fund a popular program providing food aid to pregnant women and their children, as well as ongoing disaster relief.
Furloughed federal workers would get retroactive pay under a bill the House plans to vote on Saturday. Some top Democrats have supported that idea alongside Republicans.
Obama had been scheduled to leave Saturday for economic summits next week in Indonesia and Brunei. His decision to cancel those plans underscored how entrenched both sides were in a partisan showdown with no end in sight.
“The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world.”
Lawmakers said the shutdown that began Tuesday when the government began its new budget year seemed to be quickly merging with a more critical showdown over the nation’s expiring line of credit, raising the stakes for the still-fragile economy.
Obama and his Treasury Department said failure to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, expected to hit its $16.7 trillion cap in mid-October, could precipitate an economic nosedive worse than the recent Great Recession. A default could cause the nation’s credit markets to freeze, the value of the dollar to plummet and U.S. interest rates to skyrocket, according to a Treasury report.
Obama cataloged a litany of troubles that could be caused by the failure to raise the debt ceiling, from delayed Social Security and disability checks to worldwide economic repercussions.
“If we screw up, everybody gets screwed up,” he said.
The speaker’s office reiterated Boehner’s past assertion that he would not let the government default on its debt. “But if we’re going to raise the debt limit, we need to deal with the drivers of our debt and deficits,” his spokesman, Michael Steel, said. “That’s why we need a bill with cuts and reforms to get our economy moving again.”
Pelosi spoke on “CBS This Morning,” and Blackburn spoke on MSNBC.