White House pushes Congress to avert shutdown



WASHINGTON (AFP) – The White House on Friday warned that a looming US government shutdown “would be bad for the economy” as it urged feuding lawmakers to reach a budget compromise by a March 4 deadline.

“All of us agree that a government shutdown would be bad for the economy,” said spokesman Jay Carney, who told reporters “we believe that a compromise can be reached” in hard-fought congressional negotiations.

His comments came as US President Barack Obama’s Republican foes, who control the House of Representatives, unveiled a two-week stopgap spending measure that would cut $4 billion dollars by reducing or scrapping programs.

Senate Democrats were reportedly working on their own version, a seven-month extension that would accelerate some $33 billion in spending cuts and program terminations included in Obama’s proposed budget for next year.

“We are glad that the leaders of Congress are working on this issue,” said Carney, who added that a shutdown “would create a great deal of uncertainty and potential instability and might have a negative impact on the economy.”

But Carney refused to say what the White House hoped to see in a short-term spending bill, amid a pitched political battle in Washington over what to cut, and by how much, and preemptive finger-pointing over a possible shutdown.

“Let me be clear: a government shutdown is not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans,” the House of Representatives’ number-two Republican, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, told reporters on a conference call.

The US government could suffer a partial shutdown unless polarized lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives agree on a compromise to replace a current stopgap spending measure that expires at midnight March 4.

Cantor said the new Republican-drafted “continuing resolution” would fund the government to March 19 and cut some $4 billion in government spending while all sides pursue negotiations on a broader accord.

“If they walk away from this offer, they’re then actively engineering a government shutdown,” Republican Representative Peter Roskam, one of the party’s senior vote-counters, said on the same conference call.

Details of the plan, known as a “continuing resolution” or “CR” in the jargon of Washington, were to be available later in the day.

A spokesman for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jon Summers, sought to portray House Republicans as backing off $61 billion in cuts in legislation they passed one week ago and hinted at a compromise.

“If we need a little more time to agree on a responsible path forward, we should pass a short-term CR for no longer than the next month,” Summers said in a statement.

“But the ‘my way or the highway’ approach Republicans have been taking in the past only signals a desire for a government shutdown that our country can’t afford. We hope this is a sign that they have abandoned it and will work with Democrats moving forward,” he said.

The Washington Post reported earlier that Senate Democrats were drafting a seven-month spending measure as part of an effort to rein in Washington.

All sides have said they want to avoid a government shutdown, and sought to pin the blame on their political foes if such an outcome disrupts many services and idles hundreds of thousands of government employees.

A Congressional report on the most recent shutdown, a 21-day hiatus in late 1995 and early 1996, noted that it idled environmental cleanup efforts and led to millions of visitors being turned away from museums and national parks.

Then-president Bill Clinton successfully pinned the blame on Republicans for that shutdown and coasted to reelection in November 1996 while portraying his political foes as radicals.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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