Washington (AFP) – Republicans launched an angry counter-attack Friday as the U.S. government shutdown dragged deep into a fourth day, with House Speaker John Boehner fuming: “This isn’t some damn game.”
President Barack Obama meanwhile digested an embarrassing blow to his foreign policy and the U.S. image abroad after he was forced to cancel plans to jet to Asia for a pair of diplomatic summits.
Boehner jumped at the chance to seize the high ground by citing an unnamed official who was quoted speaking dismissively of the shutdown, which has sent hundreds of thousands home without pay.
Summoning outrage at a news conference, Boehner said: “This morning, I get the Wall Street Journal out and it says, ‘well, we don’t care how long this lasts, because we’re winning.’
“This isn’t some damn game. The American people don’t want their government shut down and neither do I,” Boehner said, theatrically waving a copy of the paper.
The White House tried to contain the damage from the Journal quote, which dominated the media messaging war raging between Obama and his Republican foes on Capitol Hill.
Obama even staged a photo op — a rare stroll outside the White House to a nearby sandwich shop — to clean up the misstep, declaring “nobody is winning” from the first shutdown in 17 years.
“There’s no winning when families don’t have any certainty over whether they are going to get paid or not,” Obama said.
“This shutdown could be over today,” Obama said, calling on Boehner to call a vote on a temporary funding measure to reopen government operations.
Obama spokesman Jay Carney said on Twitter: “We utterly disavow idea WH doesn’t care when it ends. House should act now, no strings attached.”
Obama is refusing to negotiate with Republicans over budget issues until they pass a temporary bill to open the government and agree to raise the $16.7 trillion U.S. statutory borrowing limit — without which Washington could default on its debts for the first time ever later this month.
But Republicans are demanding the president enter into talks on their goal to defund or delay his health reform law — a step Obama refuses to take.