Don't 'extort' over budget, debt ceiling, Obama warns

Don't 'extort' over budget, debt ceiling, Obama warns
US President Barack Obama speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on September 16, 2013.

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama accused his critics Wednesday of extorting him over raising the US debt ceiling, as a Republican budget gamble brought the prospect of a government shutdown ever closer.

Obama and his Republican foes in Congress are locked into entrenched positions over lifting the US$16.7 trillion (S$20.8 trillion) borrowing cap and a government operating budget.

The president is angry that conservatives in the House want to create an "ideological fight" over the debt ceiling by making its extension contingent on a delay in implementation of his cherished health care law, known as Obamacare.

If there is no compromise - an increasingly likely prospect - government operations will grind to a halt on October 1 and the United States could default on its debts by the middle of next month, a first-ever scenario which could have alarming domestic and international implications.

"You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling being used to extort a president or a governing party," Obama told business leaders.

He said he was ready to deal with Republicans over budget issues, but "what I will not do is create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy. It's irresponsible."

House Speaker John Boehner earlier appeared to cave in to Republican conservatives, who have threatened to vote against any deal on a temporary budget - known as a continuing resolution, or CR which would defer a shutdown - unless it defunds the health law and keeps this year's automatic spending cuts in place.

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