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Obama warns of 'economic shutdown' as debt deadline nears

October 12, 2013 19:06 IST

Faced with the looming prospect of a debt default, President Barack Obama today appealed to Congress to pass the budget while pushing Republicans to agree to hike the borrowing limit to prevent an "economic shutdown".

"Let's pass a budget, put people back to work, and end this Republican shutdown. Let's pay our bills, and prevent an economic shutdown," Obama said as the government shutdown entered its twelfth day.

In his weekly address to the nation, Obama outlined details of his meetings with Republican lawmakers over the past few days to resolve the unprecedented crisis.

"I know you're frustrated by what you see in your nation's capital right now. But because it's easy to get lost in or give up on the political back-and-forth, I want you to remember: this is not normal," he said.

The battle between Obama and Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, over the flagship healthcare plan dubbed 'Obamacare' has forced the government to shutter offices and send home hundreds of thousands of workers.

Alongside the shutdown, the US is heading for a default if it does not raise its debt limit by the October 17 deadline.

"Our government is closed for the first time in 17 years. A political party is risking default for the first time since the 1700s. This is not normal. That's why we have to put a stop to it. Not only because it's dangerous, but because it saps everyone's faith in our extraordinary system of self-government. And that hurts us all," he said.

Obama blamed the Republican Party leadership for the current situation, saying "constant brinkmanship" does not let his government do a lot of things.

"Whether it's the work of creating jobs, growing the economy, or getting our fiscal house in order for the long haul, we've got a lot of work to do - and constant brinkmanship doesn't let us do it," Obama said.

"It inflicts real pain on real people. It creates spasms of uncertainty for business owners. It threatens our nation's credit and standing in the world," he added.

"And the longer it goes on - the more frequently this brinkmanship is inflicted - the more we'll see markets react, businesses put off plans to spend and hire, and unemployment claims tick up."

"The hundreds of thousands of hardworking civil servants who go even longer without pay will worry that they won't be able to cover their bills, and that their own creditworthiness will be ruined for no good reason at all," Obama said.

In a sign of a possible thaw in the crisis, popular tourist sites like the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, closed till now, will re-open enabling some workers to get back to work.

The funding will be provided by the states of New York, Arizona and South Dakota, however, with other national parks and monuments remaining closed due to the political deadlock.

With the potential of an economic disaster looming, Obama and his opponents have to agree on how long to extend the debt ceiling, with Republicans wanting to limit the extension to six weeks to try and win more concessions from the president.

Obama said in his address that he wants a longer debt ceiling extension to get the US economy through the holiday shopping season without any shocks.

Republicans want a commitment to broader deficit-reduction talks from the White House.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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