US shutdown: Barack Obama cuts Asia trip as squabble continues to cripple federal agencies

Republican leadership in the House of Representatives remains at odds with the Democrats who control the Senate

US President Barack Obama scrapped part of an upcoming tour of Asia this morning as the government shutdown entered its second day, with no sign of a resolution to the partisan squabble that has crippled federal agencies.

With national museums and monuments still shut - and with government departments left with no choice but to send hundreds of thousands of federal workers back home while Congressional lawmakers continue to bicker - the White House said the President will not visit Malaysia and the Philippines when he flies to Asia next week, scrapping two stops from a long-planned four-country tour of the region. Instead, he plans on flying back to Washington after attending international summits in  Indonesia and Brunei.

In Congress, meanwhile, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives remained at odds with the Democrats who control the Senate about lifting the first partial shutdown of the US federal government in seventeen years by passing a stopgap budget.

Hoping to engineer a solution, the President has summoned top leaders from both parties to an afternoon meeting at the White House to discuss the impasse. 

Earlier in the week, as the shutdown neared, he publicly accused House Republicans of holding the country by insisting that any funding measure be accompanied by provisions to put off or weaken his signature health reforms.

The President has publicly accused House Republicans of holding the national government hostage by insisting that any funding measure be accompanied by provisions to put off or weaken his signature health reforms. 

On Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, the Republicans offered proposals to fund some government operations as they sought to deflect some of the blame for the budget impasse. With poll after poll showing that most Americans hold them, and not the President, responsible for the political paralysis, they put forward measures to pay for such things as national parks, veterans benefits and the city government in Washington. But the piecemeal strategy was a non-starter for Democrats, who are demanding a stopgap measure to fund the federal government while a debate of the country’s longer term budget priorities is resolved.

As the budgetary argument drags on, concerns are growing about the thorny issue of the Congressionally-mandated limit on the federal government’s ability to borrow money to fund is spending commitments. With the administration set to hit the so-called debt ceiling by mid-October, Congress must move to raise the limit or risk forcing the US government to default on its debts, an outcome that is likely to trigger turmoil on financial markets around the world and potentially upset the economic recovery that is only slowly taking root in the US.

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