Deadlocked Congress takes US gov’t to brink of shutdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US Congress, still in partisan deadlock yesterday over Republican efforts to halt President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms, was on the verge of shutting down most of the US government starting this morning.

With the law funding thousands of routine government activities set to expire at midnight, Republicans in the US House of Representatives were still insisting that any temporary measure to fund the government include a delay of Obamacare, knowing that it would be rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate, as it was yesterday afternoon for second time in a week.

There was little doubt how it would end without a last-minute compromise – in a shutdown that would leave some essential functions like national security intact but cut many regulatory agencies back to a skeleton staff.

Neither body wants to get stuck holding the funding measure at midnight, for fear of being identified as the one that ultimately didn’t pass it, leading to the game of hot potato with rival funding bills that is in its second week.

Asked late in the day if Republicans would send an anti-Obamacare version of the funding measure back to the Senate for a third time, Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said, “Oh my goodness gracious, we’re going to keep going. We’re keeping the government open.”

At 5 pm (2100 GMT) Obama appeared resigned to a shutdown, stepping into the White House press room to reiterate that the shutdown would be the fault of the “extreme right wing” of the Republican Party, referring to the conservative Tea Party.

He also reassured the public that while poor people and seniors, among others, would continue to receive benefit checks in the event of a shutdown, many other functions of government would grind to a halt, throwing “a wrench into the gears of our economy.”

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