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Obama has harsh message for House GOP as shutdown drama escalates

Sep. 27, 2013 - 06:52PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
President Obama Makes Statement In Brady Briefing
President Obama addresses the press Sept. 27 about recent developments with Iran, and also addressed the possible government shutdown. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
After the Senate on Friday passed a resolution to fund the government through mid-November, all eyes shift to Speaker John Boehner in the quest to avoid a government shutdown next week. / Alex Wong/Getty Images

Showdown Over a Shutdown

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama delivered harsh words Friday to conservative House Republicans, urging them to avoid shutting down the US government and harming America’s security by hurting its economy.

Speaking from the White House briefing room two hours after the Senate approved a temporary government-funding bill, Obama cast the threat of a government shutdown as a national security issue. He said America’s strength is directly tied to its economic health, which would be undermined by a shutdown.

The president called the House’s nearly 90 most-conservative Republicans “extremists,” and also warned them he won’t negotiate on the nation’s borrowing limit. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew this week told lawmakers the nation will hit that limit on Oct. 17.

Obama praised Senate Democrats and Republicans for passing the upper chamber’s clean continuing resolution (CR). And he charged House Republican leaders with being almost exclusively interested in “appeasing the tea party.”

He hit the House’s far-right wing for threatening to both shut down the government and pushing the nation into default next month solely because “they don’t like a few laws.”

Atop that list is his health care reform law.

Obamacare and a list of items the House GOP is reportedly putting in its debt-ceiling bill “have nothing to do with the deficit.”

Obama said he had a message for lawmakers: “Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy.”

And, to House Republicans, the president said: “Don’t threaten to burn the house down simply because you haven’t gotten your way.”

The Senate on Friday passed a funding measure that would keep the Pentagon and other federal agencies open through mid-November, pressuring House Speaker John Boehner to act.

The vote tally was along party lines: 54 Democrats for, and 44 Republicans opposed. GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona did not vote.

By passing a CR, the Democratic-controlled Senate shifted the burden of avoiding a government shutdown to Boehner and House GOP leaders.

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, House Republican Conference deputy whip, told reporters on Friday morning that GOP leaders have yet to decide how to proceed.

Asked when the lower chamber would either take up and amend the Senate-passed CR or vote on its own version, Cole said, “Probably not today.”

“I think we’re still trying to see where we’re at on that,” Cole said.

The Senate amended the House-passed CR from this month. The House included language Senate Democratic leaders called “toxic riders,” including a controversial proposed to kill funding for President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

“I think, probably, the House will send something back,” Cole said. “What that’s going to be, I don’t know yet.”

The GOP leadership member told reporters that senior House Republicans are still talking with members of their caucus and among themselves about just what the chamber will take up with the government slated to shut down at 12 a.m. on Tuesday.

House GOP leaders likely will schedule a Sunday vote on what will be the third version of a CR.

Cole said leaders likely will send back legislation “that the Senate can’t say no to,” meaning it will closely resemble the Senate-passed measure — and likely include less-controversial riders and no Obamacare language.

In a comment that signaled a shutdown of some length could be likely, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Friday there are no back-channel talks occurring among GOP and Democratic leaders, staff, nor White House officials.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., on Friday afternoon called on Boehner “to reject the legislative anarchy that House Republicans are pursuing, bring the Senate-passed continuing resolution to the floor of the House, send it to the president for his signature and end the threat of a shutdown.”

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