Amid shutdown stalemate, hope over debt limit

Washington, Oct 4 (IANS) As US President Barack Obama launched a blistering attack on Republicans for their "reckless" refusal to pass a "clean" spending bill to end the government shutdown, a ray of hope emerged on the looming debt limit crisis.

House Speaker John Boehner, whom Obama Thursday challenged to quickly hold a vote on a "clean" spending bill with no conditions to dump or delay his signature healthcare law, was reported to have told fellow Republicans he won't let the nation default on its debt.

Boehner, according to various media reports, told party legislators at a private gathering that he would be willing to rely on Democrats to do so by setting aside the so called "Hastert Rule" by which Republicans bring only those measures for a vote that are backed by a majority of their caucus.

Congressional Republicans remain divided on how to structure legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling to avoid having the US default on its obligations. Officials say US is set to run out of money to cover its roughly $16.7 trillion debt by Oct 17.

Boehner's reported willingness to turn to Democrats to prevent a US debt default came shortly after Obama and his Treasury Department warned that a default on US debts would be worse than the closure and could trigger another global financial crisis like the one in 2008.

"As reckless as a government shutdown is... an economic shutdown that results from default would be dramatically worse," Obama said during an appearance Thursday at a construction company in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington.

With no end to the stalemate in sight, Obama suggested Boehner is preventing a vote on a funding bill because he doesn't want to anger tea party "extremists" in his party, who want to derail his signature healthcare law.

Boehner is the only thing standing in the way of reopening the federal government, he said calling on the Republican leader to bring a "clean" bill before the House and predicting it would pass with bipartisan support.

Democratic controlled Senate has rejected three attempts by Republican-run House to pass a bill paying for government services while also trying to delay all or parts of the health care law.

Obama and other Democrats have said they're willing to negotiate a broad budget deal that could include tax reforms and other matters, but only willing after the government reopens.

"This whole thing is about one thing," Obama said. "The Republican obsession with dismantling the Affordable Care Act."

The longer the shutdown goes on, the worse the impact on the US economy will be, Obama said as the Treasury Department warned amid an impasse over raising the country's debt-limit that mere prospect of default endangers economy.

"Political brinksmanship that engenders even the prospect of a default can be disruptive to financial markets and American businesses and families," the Treasury Department said in a report released Thursday.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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