- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2013

As the shutdown stretched to its first full week Monday, President Obama dared Speaker John A. Boehner to allow a vote on a short-team measure to reopen the government, disputing the speaker’s claim that the House lacks the votes for such a move.

But there was no resolution to the budget impasse in Congress, where Mr. Boehner held firm and again called on the president to negotiate with Republicans on spending cuts. As a second deadline for raising the nation’s borrowing limit next week inched closer, the White House said Mr. Obama will never negotiate with Congress over the debt ceiling as long as he remains in office.

The shutdown is causing embarrassment for the administration on the foreign policy front in Asia, where Mr. Obama canceled a trip this week. Secretary of State John F. Kerry substituted for Mr. Obama at an economic summit in Indonesia on Monday and tried to assure Asian leaders that the problems in Washington are just “politics.”

China, which holds a massive amount of U.S. debt, expressed concern that the “clock is ticking” on a U.S. loan default.

With hundreds of thousands of government workers furloughed, Mr. Obama made a surprise visit at noon to the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington to call attention to employees working on disaster relief without a paycheck. The president also used the opportunity to challenge Mr. Boehner’s view that the House doesn’t have enough votes to pass a “clean” measure that would keep the government running at current spending levels for a few weeks.

“If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there aren’t enough votes, then they should prove it,” Mr. Obama said. “Let the bill go to the floor and let’s see what happens. Just vote.”

The president all but called Mr. Boehner a liar, citing some Republican lawmakers who say there are probably enough bipartisan votes to approve an unencumbered measure to reopen the government.

“The truth of the matter is, there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives right now to end this shutdown immediately with no partisan strings attached,” Mr. Obama said. “The House should hold that vote today.”

Mr. Boehner, under pressure from tea party Republicans who seek concessions from the president on spending and on implementation of Obamacare, criticized Mr. Obama for refusing to bargain.

“The president’s refusal to negotiate is hurting our economy and putting our country at risk,” Mr. Boehner said. “The American people expect when their leaders have differences, and we’re in a time of crisis, we’ll sit down and at least have a conversation.”

Democrats say at least 20 House Republicans have indicated they would vote for a “clean” bill — enough that, combined with Democratic votes, should be enough to clear the House.

Trying to force the issue, House Democrats have launched a petition drive. If they can get those Republican lawmakers to sign the petition along with all Democrats, they could force the bill to the chamber floor.

But Republicans who have said they would vote for a clean bill have rejected the petition drive, which would put them in direct conflict with Republican leaders.

“I’m not going to sign a discharge petition,” Rep. Charles W. Dent, Pennsylvania Republican, told CNN.

A CNN/ORC International survey released Monday indicated Republicans are taking most of the blame for the shutdown, but sides are taking a hit. The poll, conducted over the weekend, showed 63 percent of respondents are angry with Republicans, 57 percent angry with Democrats and 53 percent with Mr. Obama.

For now, there is little movement on Capitol Hill.

The House passed another bill to fund a part of the government — in this case, the Food and Drug Administration — marking the ninth piece of government that House Republicans have tried to fund.

But Senate Democrats have been reluctant to take up any of those bills, saying either all of the government must be funded or none will be. Indeed, the Senate hasn’t voted on anything related to the shutdown since it began Oct. 1.

The gridlock now threatens to extend into the debt fight, with an Oct. 17 deadline looming.

Mr. Obama said he won’t negotiate with Congress raising the limit beyond the current $16.7 trillion.

The president said he is “happy” to talk with Republicans about budget issues, but not under threat of a shutdown or a government default.

White House press secretary Jay Carney went a step further, saying Mr. Obama will never negotiate with lawmakers on raising the debt limit as long as he is president.

“Whether it’s today, or a number of weeks from now, or a number of months from now, or a number of years from now, it will always be Congress‘ responsibility to raise our debt ceiling so that the United States can pay the bills that Congress has incurred,” Mr. Carney said. “It will always be, as long as he’s president, President Obama’s position that that responsibility is not negotiable.”

Mr. Obama did make a deal with congressional Republicans in 2011 over raising the debt ceiling, linking the move to legislation that has resulted in the “sequester” budget cuts that took effect in March. Ever since, the president has been trying to reverse those cuts.

In Indonesia, Mr. Kerry tried to assure Asian leaders at the conference that the U.S. won’t be weakened by the gridlock.

“No one should mistake what is happening in Washington as anything more than a moment of politics,” Mr. Kerry said in Bali. Mr. Obama’s absence is especially poorly timed as Chinese President Xi Jinping is making overtures with other Asian nations on trade and national security issues.

⦁ Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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