Worries grow over debt limit, shutdown

Federal gridlock rattles markets, prompts word of caution from China

By

Published:

 

WASHINGTON — A possible national default loomed closer on Monday as the partial government shutdown lingered, rattling markets in the U.S. and overseas. A gridlocked Congress betrayed little or no urgency toward resolving either of the threats.

Stocks got a case of the jitters on Wall Street, and halfway around the world China stressed the importance for the international economy of raising the U.S. debt limit.

"Safeguarding the debt is of vital importance to the economy of the U.S. and the world," Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. China holds $1.277 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, second only to Japan.

At home, the political rhetoric was unchanged — and generally uncompromising — while a new poll suggested Republicans are paying a heavier price than Democrats for the deadlock.

President Barack Obama said the House should vote immediately on ending the partial closure of the federal establishment. He accused House Speaker John Boehner of refusing to permit the necessary legislation to come to the floor because he "doesn't apparently want to see the … shutdown end at the moment, unless he's able to extract concessions that don't have anything to do with the budget."

Boehner, in rebuttal, called on Obama to agree to negotiations on changes in the nation's health care overhaul and steps to curb deficits, the principal GOP demands for ending the shutdown and eliminating the threat of default.

"Really, Mr. President. It's time to have that conversation before our economy is put further at risk," the Ohio Republican said in remarks on the House floor.

Obama said he would talk with the Republicans on those topics or virtually any others. But the White House has said repeatedly the president will not negotiate until the government is fully reopened

and the debt limit has been raised to stave off the nation's first-ever default.

The current standoff is the latest in a string of clashes over the past three years between Obama and a House Republican majority that has steered to the right with the rise of the Tea Party.

Most Democrats and many Republicans have assumed the GOP will pay a heavier price for a shutdown than the Democrats, since that was the case in 1996.

In the Senate, where majority Democrats forced approval of legislation before the shutdown aimed at preventing it, officials said Majority Leader Harry Reid was drafting a bill to raise the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling before the Oct. 17 deadline, when Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said the government will reach its borrowing limit.

The measure would allow the government to meet its borrowing needs through the 2014 elections, officials said, although few details were immediately available.

Assuming Democratic support, the bill could pass the Senate quickly if Republicans merely vote against it as they press for concessions from the White House. But passage could be delayed until Oct. 17 if the GOP decides to mount a filibuster.

Separately, a White House aide said Obama would be receptive to an interim, short-term measure to prevent default.

In the House, Republicans declined to say when they would put debt limit legislation on the floor for a vote.

Earlier House-passed bills would end the shutdown at national parks, the National Guard and Reserves, and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, and ease effects for the Washington, D.C., government, among other locations. Each of the measures cleared the House with some Democratic support.

Yet each is under a veto threat by the White House, and Reid opposes them in the Senate as far less than the full restoration of government services that most Democrats favor.