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US CONGRESS SHUTDOWN 1st UPD

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and other House Republicans are demanding Democrats sit down and negotiate a solution to a government shutdown, now in its fourth day.



"This isn't some damn game. The American people don't want their government shut down and neither do I. All we're asking for want is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness. Reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare."



The government closed Tuesday after the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate could not agree on a budget. The Republicans' desire to change U.S. President Barack Obama's signature health care law has stalled a short-term, normally routine, spending bill.

The shutdown has furloughed more than 800,000 federal workers, about one third of the federal work force. People classified as essential employees, such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and many food inspectors, continue to work, as do U.S. broadcasting services, including VOA.

President Obama canceled an upcoming trip to Asia because of the partial U.S. government shutdown.

The White House announced late Thursday the president decided to cancel visits to Indonesia and Brunei in the face of the shutdown and his intent to continue pressuring Republicans to allow a vote on a spending plan that does not include changes to the health care program.





"There will be no negotiations over this. The American people are not pawns in some political game. You do not get to demand some ransom in exchange for keeping the government running. You do not get to demand ransom in exchange for keeping the economy running. You don't get to demand ransom for doing your most basic job."



The White House says Secretary of State John Kerry will lead U.S. delegations to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines. Kerry will attend the APEC summit in Bali in place of the president.

Earlier Thursday, President Obama said a simple bill to fund the government with no other issues attached -- including his signature health care plan, nicknamed "Obamacare" -- would pass the House of Representatives. Mr. Obama accused Republican House Speaker John Boehner of catering to a small group of what he called conservative, Republican extremists who want to defund or delay the health care plan.

But House Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, blame the president and Democrats for refusing to negotiate or pass any bills to reopen parts of the government while the two sides work out their differences.



"Now the president continues to refuse to sit down with us Republicans, and sadly, that is a hallmark of his presidency."



Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told CNN television Thursday that it was House Speaker Boehner who reneged on a promise to allow a vote on a clean funding bill, even after Democrats agreed to accept Republican spending levels.

With the shutdown prompting Mr. Obama to cancel his Asia trip, he will be missing the second APEC summit in a row. VOA White House correspondent Dan Robinson reports this might raise doubts about the U.S. commitment to the Asia Pacific region.



"As you know, President Obama was not able to go to the APEC summit in Vladivostock last year because of the U.S. presidential election campaign. This is bound to raise further questions in Asia among those who are questioning U.S. commitment not only to the strategic pivot but to the whole regional focus or rebalancing of U.S. economic interests in the region."

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