Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama warned his opponents in Congress Friday that he would not back down in the face of their threat to shut down the government over a budget dispute.
“My message to Congress is this. Do not shut down the government, do not shut down the economy, pass a budget on time, pay our bills on time,” Obama said.
The standoff on Capitol Hill is showing no signs of being averted before an October 1 deadline, and Obama warned Republicans in the House of Representatives that they faced a choice.
“Over the next three days, House Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open or shut it down because they can’t get their way on an issue that has nothing to do with the deficit,” he said.
Republicans oppose backing an operating plan for the government unless Obama agrees to delay or defund his signature health care reform law, a step the president has flatly refused to take.
“On Tuesday, about 40 million more Americans will be able to finally buy quality, affordable health care just like anybody else,” Obama said.
“Those marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday. No matter what, even if there’s a government shutdown. That’s a done deal.”
Congress will need to raise the nation’s legal borrowing limit by October 17, according to the U.S. Treasury, or the United States would default on its debts for the first time in history.
The president warned that failure to do so would have consequences that would reach even further than the shutdown of federal agencies, and would hurt the global economy.
“It would effectively be an economic shutdown with impacts not just here, but around the world,” Obama said.
“It would have a profound destabilizing effect on the entire economy. On the world economy. Because America is the bedrock of world investment,” he added.
“The dollar is the reserve currency. The debt that is issued by the Treasury is the foundation for our capital markets. That’s why you don’t fool with it.”
If the Republican-led House and the Senate, ruled by Obama’s fellow Democrats, fail to reach an agreement by Monday night, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will not get paid to work on Tuesday.
“If Republicans have specific ideas on how to genuinely improve the law rather than gut it, rather than delay it, rather than repeal it, I’m happy to work with them on that, through the normal democratic processes,” Obama said in reference to the health care law.
“But that will not happen under the threat of a shutdown.”
AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski