Veteran Raul Sanchez protests for federal workers idled by the shutdown outside the San Antonio office of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. (Eric Gay / AP)
Washington— Three days into a government shutdown, President Barack Obama pointedly blamed House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday for keeping federal agencies closed, while the bitter budget dispute moved closer to a more critical showdown over the nation’s line of credit. The Treasury warned of calamitous results if Congress fails to raise the debt limit.
Answering Obama, Boehner complained that the president was “steamrolling ahead” with the implementation of the nation’s new health care law.
Last night, Obama canceled a trip to Asia next week because of the shutdown.
Two House Republicans said Boehner told them he would allow a House vote on restarting the entire government — but only if conservative GOP lawmakers assured him they would not attack it for failing to contain curbs on the health care law. So far they have been unwilling to give that commitment.
The shutdown and the approaching debt ceiling were merging into one confrontation.
Obama and his Treasury Department said that 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 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 the Treasury report.
The speaker’s office reiterated Boehner’s past assertion that he would not let the United States 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,” said his spokesman, Michael Steel.
Looking to deflect the Democratic finger-pointing on the shutdown, the Republican-controlled House pushed a pair of bills through the House on Thursday restoring money to veterans’ programs and to pay National Guard and Reserve members. A House vote also is scheduled on legislation to give federal workers furloughed in the ongoing partial shutdown their missed pay when the government reopens.
That vote could come as early as today or over the weekend.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, said he’s worried by the tactics used by fellow Republicans over the shutdown fight and questioned how long they would continue battling on “enemy’s territory” with little accomplishment.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township and freshman lawmaker, also expressed frustration. He knew he was entering a partisan body but he didn’t realize it was one where the House Republican majority would prevent a vote on a budget bill that would end a government shutdown.
Detroit News Staff Writer Marisa Schultz contributed.