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In budget faceoff, Obama warns of 'economic chaos'
Tuesday - 9/17/2013, 11:52am EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A potential federal shutdown looming, President Barack Obama on Monday warned congressional Republicans they could trigger national "economic chaos" if they demand a delay of his health care law as the price for supporting continued spending for federal operations.
House Republican leaders were to meet Tuesday in hopes of finding a formula that would avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1 without alienating party conservatives who insist on votes to undercut the Affordable Care Act. Even more daunting is a mid- to late-October deadline for raising the nation's borrowing limit, which some Republicans also want to use as leverage against the Obama administration.
"Are some of these folks really so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they're willing to tank the entire economy just because they can't get their way on this issue?" Obama said in a speech at the White House. "Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points?"
The Republicans don't see it that way.
House Speaker John Boehner, who opposes the threat of a shutdown, said, "It's a shame that the president could not manage to rise above partisanship today." Obama, said Boehner, "should be working in a bipartisan way to address America's spending problem, the way presidents of both parties have done before," and should delay implementation of the health care law.
While some conservatives supported by the tea party have been making shutdown threats, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Monday that was "a dumb idea." At a community meeting in Louisville, he said, "We should fight for what we believe in and then maybe we find something in between the two. ... I am for the debate, I am for fighting. I don't want to shut the government down, though. I think that's a bad solution."
Obama timed his remarks for the fifth anniversary of the bankruptcy of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers, a major early event in the near-meltdown of the U.S. financial system and a severe global recession that preceded his presidency. He used the occasion to draw attention to the still-recovering economy and to what he called a "safer" financial system now in place.
He delayed his remarks as authorities responded to the shootings that officials said left at least 13 people dead at the Washington Navy Yard just a few miles from the White House.
While unemployment has dropped to 7.3 percent from a high of 10 percent and the housing market has begun to recover, the share of long-term unemployed workers is double what it was before the recession, and a homebuilding revival has yet to take hold. A new analysis conducted for The Associated Press shows that the gap in employment rates between America's highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest level since officials began tracking the data a decade ago.
Obama conceded the problems. "As any middle class family will tell you or anybody who's striving to get in the middle class, we are not yet where we need to be," he said.
Still, his National Economic Council argued his case for progress, issuing a report detailing policies that it said had helped return the nation to a path toward growth. Those steps ranged from the unpopular Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, that shored up the financial industry and bailed out auto giants General Motors and Chrysler, to an $800 billion stimulus bill and sweeping new bank regulations. Of the $245 billion that the government injected into the banking system, virtually all of it has been paid back, the report noted.
"After all the progress that we've made over these last four and a half years, the idea of reversing that progress because of an unwillingness to compromise or because of some ideological agenda is the height of irresponsibility," Obama said. He reiterated his stance that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. Failure to raise it could lead to the first national default in U.S. history.
Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, say the health care law, which has yet to take full effect, will place a burden on businesses and the public and will damage the economy. As a result, they insist that it be starved of taxpayer money or at least delayed.
Chances are fading for a complicated GOP leadership plan that would allow the House to also vote to "defund Obamacare" but automatically separate the measures when delivering them to the Senate to ease the way for quick passage of a "clean" funding measure for delivery to Obama.