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Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday told House Republicans to stop making threats and pass a budget, which would bring an end to a crippling government shutdown.

“Members of Congress and the House Republicans in particular don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs. Two of their very basic jobs are passing a budget and making sure that America’s paying its bills,” Obama told a press conference.

“Let’s lift these threats from our families and our businesses and let’s get down to work,” he continued.

Failure to raise the U.S. debt ceiling would cause the United States to default on its bills and would be “dramatically worse” than the current shutdown, President Barack Obama warned Tuesday.

“As soon as Congress votes to reopen the government, it’s also got to vote to meet our country’s commitments, pay our bills, raise the debt ceiling,” Obama told a press conference.

“As reckless as a government shutdown is, the economic shutdown caused by America defaulting would be dramatically worse,” he added.

Criticizing the rival Republican Party, Obama said that lawmakers had two “very basic jobs” of passing a budget and “making sure that America’s paying its bills.”

Members of Congress “don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs,” he said.

“We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy. Democracy doesn’t function this way. And this is not just for me. It’s also for my successors in office, whatever party they’re from,” he said.

The U.S. government, which has been partially shut down for the past week, faces an October 17 deadline to raise its borrowing limit or go into default.

But House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, has warned that he will not allow Congress to raise the ceiling unless Obama offers concessions on his signature reform of expanded health care coverage.

Obama blasted that stance.

“We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy. Democracy doesn’t function this way. And this is not just for me. It’s also for my successors in office, whatever party they’re from,” he said.

Meanwhile he sought to assure investors, U.S. bond holders and others that the U.S. remained good for its debts, even as he acknowledged “a cloud” over America’s economic credibility because of the shutdown.

“Obviously my message to the world is the United States always has paid its bills and it will do so again,” Obama said.

Asked what the government would do if the debt ceiling were not increased on time and the government would have to decide which bills not to pay, Obama said the issue was still being reviewed.

“No option is good in that scenario,” he said. “We are exploring all contingencies.”

 

Video of President Obama’s remarks can be seen here.

Photo: AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

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Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

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“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

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