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U.S. Chamber urges House to pass spending bill, avoid shutdown

Sept. 18, 2013 at 7:27 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Wednesday urged the House of Representatives to pass a spending bill and avoid a government shutdown.

Chamber President R. Bruce Josten said in an open letter to House members, the organization "fully recognizes the importance of restraining federal spending, both discretionary spending and mandatory spending, to reduce federal budget deficits, contain the growth of federal debt, and thereby re-establish fiscal discipline in the near-term and for the long haul." However, he wrote, "as the Department of Labor's recent lackluster jobs report reminds us, the U.S. economy continues to underperform, reinforcing the need for the federal government to preserve its normal operations pending a successful outcome of broader budgetary reforms."

"It is not in the best interest of the U.S. business community or the American people to risk even a brief government shutdown that might trigger disruptive consequences or raise new policy uncertainties washing over the U.S. economy," Josten said.

The White House reiterated Wednesday it will not negotiate with congressional Republicans on raising the U.S. debt limit or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, during Wednesday's daily briefing with reporters, was asked whether the administration is willing to accept a delay in implementing the ACA -- commonly known as Obamacare -- to avoid a government shutdown after current funding expires Sept. 30.

"No," Carney said.

When asked whether that means the administration is willing to risk default on debt payment, Carney said congressional Republicans have the power to raise the debt ceiling.

"And all they have to do is do what they have done hundreds of times before and raise the debt ceiling."

He reminded questioners raising the debt limit is not "new spending."

"But, as everyone in this room understands and everybody on Capitol Hill understands, and I believe a lot of Americans who are paying attention understand, this is ... simply a vote to allow Congress to pay the bills that Congress has already incurred," he said. "And that is something we have done as a nation for every year of our existence."

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a member of the Senate Budget Committee, told CNN Wednesday a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act would not be "productive."

"I think we should make every effort we can to make sure we stop this law but I don't believe they should shut down the government to do so," she said. "And I don't think that is a strategy that is good for America."

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell notified federal departments and agencies in a memo Tuesday they may not be able to operate after Oct. 1 because current funding will expire after Sept. 30.

Burwell said the administration "does not want a lapse in appropriations to occur" and there is sufficient time for Congress to pass a spending resolution that will avert a shutdown.

"However, prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse," she wrote. "To that end, this guidance reminds agencies of their responsibilities to plan for agency operations under such a contingency."

The Wall Street Journal said Wednesday the prospect of a partial government shutdown is growing.

Chris Krueger, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities -- a financial and investment consulting firm -- said there is a 40 percent chance of a shutdown, the Journal reported. Krueger said there is "little to no evidence to suggest that the House, Senate and White House can agree to a stopgap measure in time."

Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits generally have not been disrupted in past shutdowns and other government services -- including border security, some food inspection and the postal service -- would likely be maintained in the event of a shutdown, the newspaper said.

However, hundreds of thousands of federal employees would be furloughed without pay, national parks would be closed and even military personnel would go without paychecks if a shutdown lasted more than a week or so, the journal said.

President Barack Obama, speaking Wednesday at the Business Roundtable in Washington, said the threat of a shutdown is the result of an "ideological fight that's been mounted in the House of Representatives that says, we're not going to pass a budget and we will threaten a government shutdown unless we repeal the Affordable Care Act."

"We have not seen this in the past, that a budget is contingent on us eliminating a program that was voted on, passed by both chambers of Congress, ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court, is two weeks from being fully implemented, and that helps 30 million people finally get health care coverage," he said.

"What's worse, that same faction has said, if we can't succeed in shutting the government down and leveraging that to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, we may be prepared to let the government default on our debt."

Obama said House Republicans' threat on not raising the debt limit amounts to extortion and said he would not allow the full faith and credit of the United States to be "a bargaining chip to set policy."

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