By Cindy Saine – CAPITOL HILL — On day four of a partial U.S. government shutdown, the Republican leader in the U.S. House talked tough, appearing to back away from reports that he would defy members of his own party to make sure the country doesn’t default on its debt. Meanwile the president and vice president visited a local sandwich shop which is giving a discount to furloughed federal workers.
With some 800,000 federal workers furloughed and others working but having their paychecks delayed, President Obama made a visit to a sandwich shop near the White House
“Right now this establishment is providing a 10 percent discount to all federal workers who are on furlough. [Employee: “Plus a cookie!”] Plus a cookie,” he said.
Obama repeated his calls for House Republicans to allow a vote on funding the government, saying he is happy to negotiate with them, but not as long as they, he said, have a “gun to Americans’ heads.”
Outside the U.S. Capitol, Democratic lawmakers met with members of a federal workers union to protest House Republicans not allowing what they call a “clean” vote on a continuing resolution, or CR, to fund the government. Black Congressional Caucus leader Marcia Fudge had a message for Republican House Speaker Boehner:
“What are you afraid of Mr. Boehner? Why will you not put a clean CR on the House floor? Let me ask you Mr. Boehner, do you realize that you are the Speaker of the whole House?,” Obama added.
House Republicans met Friday, and their leaders came out repeating their message that they believe the health care law is unfair to Americans and must be changed.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner said, “This isn’t some damn game! The American people don’t want their government shut down and neither do I. All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness – reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under ObamaCare.”
Republicans say they want to delay a cornerstone of the health care law, a requirement for every American to buy insurance or pay a fine, saying it intrudes on Americans ‘ personal liberties. This week, health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, went online, and millions of Americans went to the government website, and thousands signed up for health insurance.
Congress is facing another potential crisis because the U.S. Treasury has said it will run out of money and needs to have the federal debt ceiling raised by October 17. Some experts believe House Republicans are now planning to merge the funding bill and the debt ceiling bill into a so-called “grand bargain,” which would include tax reform and spending cuts.
News reports Friday said Boehner has told his congressional allies that he will not let the country default, even if it means asking for Democratic votes to raise the debt ceiling. But at a press conference, he appeared to back away from that.
“I don’t believe that we should default on our debt, it is not good for our country. But after 55 years of spending more than what you bring in, something ought to be addressed,” he said.
For now, there seems to be little common ground on Capitol Hill, but at least some local businesses are giving federal workers a break.