Obama says Republicans are using 'extortion' to end US government shutdown and raise debt ceiling

Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was asked to put a no strings attached deal on the table

US Editor

President Barack Obama has blasted Congress, accusing House Republicans of attempting to “extort” him into offering concessions in return for ending the government shutdown and voting to raise the debt ceiling but indicated he could tolerate short-term fixes to get past the immediate crisis.

“We can’t make extortion a routine part of our democracy… we have got to put a stop to it,” the president said in an urgently called press conference as Washington entered its eighth day of a partial government closure and edged ever closer to not being able to pay its bills including to the holders of American debt.

He made his remarks in the White House press room after telephoning John Boehner, the speaker of the House, imploring him to put bills to restore government spending and increase the amount the US can borrow to pay its bills – the debt ceiling - without strings attached. He insisted that thereafter he would be willing to sit down and talk with Republicans on all of the issues involved including the US debt problem.

“Let’s stop the excuses, let’s take a vote and let’s put people back to work,” Mr Obama said in a clear attempt to exert additional pressure on Mr Boehner to take action to end the crisis. 

But Mr Obama may have opened the door a crack by suggesting that he would re-enter negotiations on debt and spending if Congress at least passes short-term and temporary bills on a budget and raising the debt ceiling first. “I also told him that having such a conversation, talks, negotiations, shouldn’t require hanging the threats of an economic shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of the American people.”

Within minutes, however, Mr Boehner knocked down any notion of passing even short term solutions without some give from the president first. “The long and short of it is, there's going to be a negotiation here. We can't raise the debt ceiling without doing something about what's driving us to borrow more money and to live beyond our means,” he told reporters.

At his press conference, Mr Obama said: “If Congress refuses to raise what’s called the debt ceiling, America would not be able to meet all of our financial obligations for the first time in 225 years”. Recalling some lone Republicans saying default wouldn’t be so bad, Mr Obama cited CEOs and economists using terms like “‘insane, catastrophic, chaos’”. He added: “Warren Buffett likened default to a nuclear bomb, a weapon too horrible to use.”

Earlier the International Monetary Fund offered its own warning of the possible consequences for the US economy. “If there was a problem lifting the debt ceiling, it could well be that what is now a recovery would turn into a recession or even worse,” IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard said. Beyond US shores, a default could also cast a chill over world economic prospects.

House speaker John Boehner made a conciliatory plea for both sides to meet (AP) House speaker John Boehner made a conciliatory plea for both sides to meet (AP)  

Increasingly it seems that right-wing Republicans may have overplayed their hand trying to use the crisis to cripple the president’s healthcare overhaul, just now coming into effect. Polls tilting heavily against Mr Boehner and his fractured Republicans have not gone unnoticed by the White House. A Washington Post/ABC survey said 70 per cent of Americans blamed the Republicans for the budget stand-off, up several points from a week ago, compared to 51 per cent for the president.

“All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a conversation,” Mr Boehner said earlier, striking a more conciliatory tone. “There’s no reason to make it more difficult to bring people to the table. There’s no boundaries here, there’s nothing on the table, there’s nothing off the table. I’m trying to do everything I can to bring people together and have a conversation.”

The crisis in Washington started with the failure to pass a federal budget last week has now become considerably more grave as the possibility of not raising the debt ceiling grows. Even if few on Wall Street believe Washington capable of such a level of irresponsibility the mere possibility has markets on edge.

“Unfortunately, we’re just held hostage by what’s going on in Washington,” said Dan Veru, chief investment officer of Palisade Capital Management. “The markets are somewhat directionless right now.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee