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As battle over shutdown continues, more critical debt ceiling deadline looms

October 4, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Within the GOP House ranks, there was strong sentiment not to give in and vote for a straight spending bill. On the debt ceiling, Speaker John Boehner said Republicans will insist on budget cuts before raising the borrowing limit. The president said he'd negotiate only after the government reopens. Kwame Holman reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Our lead story tonight: The partial government shutdown stretched into the weekend and the impasse stretched tempers in Congress.

NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: This isn’t some damn game. The American people don’t want their government shut down, and neither do I.

KWAME HOLMAN: House Speaker John Boehner gave no ground this morning, rejecting the president’s criticism that he is to blame for the shutdown.

JOHN BOEHNER: 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. It’s as simple as that. But it all has to begin with a simple discussion.

KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama, meanwhile, kept up his criticism of Boehner, even as he and Vice President Biden strolled to a sandwich shop near the White House.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This shutdown could be over today. We know there are the votes for it in the House of Representatives. And, as I said yesterday, if Speaker Boehner will simply allow that vote to take place, we can end this shutdown.

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, on the House floor, Democrats pressed again for that straight-up vote on a government funding bill.

REP. STENY HOYER, D-Md.: Ninety-nine percent of us are prepared to vote for a resolution at 12:01 this day to open the government, because that is the rational, commonsense, right thing to do. I tell Speaker Boehner, Mr. Speaker, that we’re prepared to vote on that today, as soon as this House opens.

KWAME HOLMAN: Within Boehner’s House Republican ranks, there was strong sentiment not to give in.

REP. RANDY WEBER, R-Texas: Now comes the president and the Senate majority leader demanding that this House of Representatives surrender. We will not surrender. We’re fighting for the American people.

KWAME HOLMAN: Still, it was increasingly clear some Republicans want a way out.

Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire:

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, R-N.H.: It’s time for a reality check. Defunding Obamacare didn’t work as a strategy, so let’s find common ground and work together, yes, to address the concerns that are very legitimate that we have with this health care bill, but also to get this government funded.

KWAME HOLMAN: The House did vote on a bill to reopen the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a tropical storm approached the Gulf Coast. Republicans also pushed another spending bill to fund nutritional assistance for low-income women and children. But the White House said the president would veto any partial spending bills that make it to his desk — the only exception, a bill that will pay retroactively some 800,000 furloughed government workers.

As the debate over the shutdown continued, an even more critical fiscal deadline loomed over the Capitol. Congress has until only October 17 to pass an increase in the debt limit, or face national default. The tight time frame has fueled speculation lawmakers will merge that issue with the shutdown in a renewed quest for a grand budget bargain.

Speaker Boehner said today Republicans will insist on spending cuts before agreeing to raise the borrowing limit.

JOHN BOEHNER: I don’t believe that we should default on our debt. It’s not good for our country. But after 55 years of spending more than what you bring in, something ought to be addressed. And I think the American people expect, if we’re going to raise the amount of money we can borrow, we ought to do something about our spending problem and the lack of economic growth in our country.

KWAME HOLMAN: For his part, President Obama said again he’d be willing to negotiate on spending cuts and other issues, but only after the government reopens.

In the meantime, the president, citing the shutdown and the debt ceiling fight, canceled his planned trip to Asia for economic summits.