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US Lawmakers Remain Deadlocked on Day 4 of Shutdown

The U.S. political stalemate over a partial government shutdown shows no signs of ending.

President Barack Obama and his Republican opponents in Congress remained deadlocked Friday on the fourth day of the shutdown that has furloughed more than 800,000 government workers, about a third of the federal work force, and halted numerous government services.

Mr. Obama, a Democrat in his fifth year as the American leader, tried to highlight the impact on furloughed workers by visiting a local sandwich shop that was offering discounts to government employees. Before ordering lunch for himself and Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Obama urged Speaker John Boehner, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, to allow a vote on a bill to reopen the government without conditions.

Until now, Republicans have been unwilling to approve a budget unless it amends or delays Mr. Obama's signature health care law, commonly known in the United States as Obamacare.

"This shutdown could be over today. We know there are the votes for it in the House of Representatives, and as I said yesterday, if Speaker Boehner will simply allow that vote to take place, we can end this shutdown."

Earlier, Boehner and other House Republicans demanded that Democrats negotiate changes in the law, which is now taking full effect.

"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 is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness, reopen the government, and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare."

Democrats in the House said they will use a parliamentary maneuver to try to force a vote on a funding bill to end the shutdown, but would need some Republican support to carry out the plan. Such a vote could not occur before October 14, just days before the U.S. must increase its $16.7 trillion borrowing limit or run out of money to pay all its bills.

Mr. Obama said he is happy to negotiate with Republicans and Boehner on "a whole range of issues," but not "with a gun held to the head of the American people."

Republicans in the House Friday approved several bills to fund targeted programs, such as disaster assistance and nutrition programs for the poor.

Congress is also considering legislation that would assure retroactive payment to the estimated 800,000 furloughed federal employees.

The government closed Tuesday after the House and the Democratic-led Senate could not agree on a budget to fund operations. The Republicans' desire to change the health care law has stalled a short-term, normally routine spending bill.

One analyst, University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon, told VOA he thinks both Mr. Obama and his Republican opponents will have to compromise on their policy goals if a default is to be avoided.

"I think at the last minute there will be some compromise because neither side can afford to be seen by the public as being intransigent. So the Republicans will have to give up and say, OK, we'll settle for fewer tax cuts than we asked for and the president is going to have to say, I'm going to make some bigger reductions than I said I would make, because neither side can afford to have the blame pinned on them. They will move together and learn to live with each other one more time."

Federal workers classified as essential employees, such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and many food inspectors, continue to work, as do many in the U.S. broadcasting services, including VOA.

But the partial shutdown is taking a toll.

On Friday, the Obama administration said it was postponing the latest round of negotiations for a free trade deal between the European Union and the United States. It said U.S. officials could not travel to Brussels next week for the talks because of the shutdown.

On Thursday, the White House announced that Mr. Obama is canceling an upcoming visit to Indonesia and Brunei in the face of the shutdown. He had originally scheduled a four-nation, week-long trip to Asia, but canceled visits to Malaysia and the Philippines earlier this week.

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.

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