WASHINGTON, USA (AFP) — Republicans launched an angry counterattack yesterday as the US government shutdown dragged deep into a fourth day, with House Speaker John Boehner fuming: "This isn't some damn game."
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, digested an embarrassing blow to his foreign policy and the US image abroad after he was forced to cancel plans to jet to Asia for a pair of diplomatic summits
Boehner jumped at the chance to seize the high ground by citing an unnamed official who was quoted speaking dismissively of the shutdown which has sent hundreds of thousands home without pay.
Summoning outrage at a news conference, Boehner said: "This morning, I get the Wall Street Journal out and it says, 'well, we don't care how long this lasts, because we're winning'.
"...The American people don't want their government shutdown, and neither do I," Boehner said, theatrically waving a copy of the paper.
The White House tried to contain the damage from the Journal quote, which is certain to dominate the media messaging war raging between Obama and his Republican foes on Capitol Hill.
Obama is refusing to negotiate with Republicans over budget issues until they pass a temporary bill to open the government and agree to raise the $16.7 trillion US statutory borrowing limit — without which Washington could default on its debts for the first time ever later this month.
But Republicans are demanding the president enter into talks on their goal to defund or delay his Obamacare health reform law.
"I was at the White House the other night and listened to the president some 20 times explain to me why he wasn't going to negotiate," Boehner complained.
Obama, on Thursday, took the decision to cancel his visit to Bali for the APEC summit and Brunei for the East Asia summit, in what analysts described as a blow to his signature policy of shifting more diplomatic and military weight towards rising Asia.
Obama had previously cancelled onward visits to Malaysia and the Philippines next week as it was impossible to put together his huge travelling entourage at a time when much of his White House staff has been furloughed.
The shutdown was caused by Congress's failure to pass a spending bill to fund government operations by October 1.