Clouds fill the sky in front of the U.S. Capitol on October 7 in Washington, DC. Democrats and Republicans are still at a stalemate on funding for the federal government. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
Washington — A possible national default loomed closer on Monday as the partial government shutdown lingered, rattling markets in the U.S. and overseas. A gridlocked Congress betrayed little or no urgency toward resolving either of the threats.
Stocks got a case of the jitters on Wall Street, and halfway around the world China stressed the importance for the international economy of raising the U.S. debt limit.
“Safeguarding the debt is of vital importance to the economy of the U.S. and the world,” Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. China holds $1.277 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, second only to Japan.
At home, the political rhetoric was unchanged — and generally uncompromising — while a new poll suggested Republicans are paying a heavier price than Democrats for the deadlock.
President Barack Obama said the House should vote immediately on ending the partial closure of the federal establishment. He accused House Speaker John Boehner of refusing to permit the necessary legislation to come to the floor because he “doesn’t apparently want to see the … shutdown end at the moment, unless he’s able to extract concessions that don’t have anything to do with the budget.”
Boehner, in rebuttal, called on Obama to agree to negotiations on changes in the nation’s health care overhaul and steps to curb deficits, the principal GOP demands for ending the shutdown and eliminating the threat of default.
“Really, Mr. President. It’s time to have that conversation before our economy is put further at risk,” the Ohio Republican said in remarks on the House floor.
In the Senate, where majority Democrats forced approval of legislation before the shutdown aimed at preventing it, officials said Majority Leader Harry Reid was drafting a bill to raise the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling before the Oct. 17 deadline when Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said the government will reach its borrowing limit.
The measure would allow the government to meet its borrowing needs through the 2014 elections, officials said, although few details were immediately available.
In the House, Republicans declined to say when they would put debt limit legislation on the floor for a vote.
Whatever the shutdown’s inconveniences, it was easily rivaled by the warnings over a default, in which the United States would not be able to pay all its bills. “A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic,” a Treasury report said.