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Washington Week: All Eyes on Government Shutdown, US Debt Ceiling

Washington Week: All Eyes on Government Shutdown, US Debt Ceiling
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A partial U.S. government shutdown is heading into a second week with no end in sight. Partisan rhetoric in Washington is becoming more strident by the day, with major political players sticking to hardened stances that seem to offer little short-term hope of resuming federal funding.

Democrats and Republicans both insist it is up to the other to end Washington’s political stalemate. President Barack Obama says congressional Republicans must allow a vote on a no-strings funding bill.

Republicans say the stand-off stems from President Obama’s refusal to negotiate while the government remains closed. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor blames it on intransigence.

“That is not leadership. It is that attitude, that unwillingness to sit down and talk to us that has brought about this shutdown,” said Cantor.

President Obama likens Republican demands to those of hostage-takers. “I will not pay a ransom in exchange for reopening the government. And I certainly will not pay a ransom in exchange for raising the debt ceiling,” he said.

Frustrations have reached a boiling point. House Speaker John Boehner voiced his discontent. “This is not some damn game. The American people do not want their government shut down, and neither do I,” said Boehner.

Saturday, the House of Representatives voted to retroactively pay all federal workers once the shutdown ends. But government employees do not know when paychecks will resume, prompting demands for congressional action.

“I have a family to take care of, and it is real to me and you are affecting me, and it is hard,” said Tracey School, a federal worker.

The shutdown impasse could be overshadowed by another looming fiscal crisis: the need to raise the federal borrowing limit. The United States risks a debt default and a credit downgrade unless Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling next week.