Obama curtails Asia trip as US shutdown continues

Washington, Oct 2 (IANS) As the US shutdown continued for the second day Wednesday, President Barack Obama cancelled part of his upcoming trip to Asia, preparing to fight a prolonged battle with the Republicans over the budget.

Secretary of State John Kerry will lead delegations to Philippines and Malaysia next week instead of Obama, the White House announced Wednesday, as both Republicans and Obama's Democrats stuck to their guns on his signature healthcare law, Obamacare.

The president will, however make the trip to Indonesia to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, where Asian leaders are gathering in Bali to discuss economic issues since that cannot be rescheduled.

Meanwhile, Americans braced themselves for prolonged closure as lawmakers kept playing their political games, with Republicans insisting on repealing or delaying Obamacare as the price for passing the budget or even short-term resolution.

On the first day of the closure, Republicans instead offered to approve piecemeal funding for three popular programmes - the American capital of Washington DC, veterans affairs and national parks, but failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority for passage.

The Republicans plan to bring up the same measures again Wednesday in a way that would require only a simple majority to pass, but the Democrats-led Senate is bound to reject it once again. The White House has also promised a veto.

"Both sides are playing a long game and seem unified in their brinkmanship," Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) fellow Robert Kahn wrote, summing up the situation.

"If current market and political realities are any indicator, we're a long way off from there being enough pressure on either side to deal," he wrote.

The first government closure in nearly 18 years began at the end of fiscal year on Monday midnight, forcing the administration to furlough close to 800,000 federal workers or about a fourth of government workforce, close national parks and end several non-essential services.

As the stalemate continued, Obama made a television appearance in the White House rose garden, publicly admonishing the House Republicans to "reopen the government" rather than continue to block federal spending to the 2010 healthcare act.

"As long as I am president, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hard-working Americans," he said, flanked by a group of beneficiaries of his Obamacare.

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

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