Obama urges Congress to fund government, Republicans quarrel

President Barack Obama on Friday urged the U.S. Congress to take steps soon to fund the federal government in 2016 and raise its nearly exhausted borrowing authority, but acknowledged that Republican political turmoil in Congress will complicate that.

“I will not sign another shortsighted spending bill,” Obama told reporters, warning that a temporary budget patch approved this week by lawmakers presents the risk of a new fiscal crisis before Christmas.

On Wednesday, just hours before a midnight deadline when government agency funds were due to run out, Congress extended current spending levels through Dec. 11. That left only 10 weeks to set a budget for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30, 2016.

That deadline, and the need to raise the government’s debt ceiling expected in early November, loom as Republicans struggle to find a successor for House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.

“I’m sure the speaker’s race complicates these negotiations,” Obama said.

Boehner said last week he would resign from Congress on Oct. 30 after being challenged repeatedly by hard-line conservatives in his own party. The move triggered an internal battle for his job and other House leadership posts in the Republican-dominated House.

Republican Kevin McCarthy, the current House majority leader, remains the favorite to replace Boehner. But some conservatives are cool to the Californian and insist he lacks the votes to be elected, raising the prospect of a prolonged fight.

McCarthy is being challenged by Representative Daniel Webster, former speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives.

A third contender emerged on Friday. Politico reported that Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah plans to launch a campaign, but his office did not respond to requests for comment.

“I don’t think conservatives are going to rally around Jason Chaffetz,” predicted Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, another conservative Republican. Chaffetz alienated some House conservatives after he punished one of them for failing to support leadership decisions.

If Republicans were to deadlock on the choice of a new speaker, it is unclear whether Boehner would stay in the job until the political dust settled.

The longest speaker election in history took place in 1855, when it took two months and 133 ballots to elect Representative Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts.

Obama urged Congress to carry out a smooth, quick debt limit increase to avoid wider economic damage.

“Historically, we do not mess with it,” the Democratic president said. “If it gets messed with, it will have profound implications for the global economy.”

Many conservative Republicans balk at raising the debt limit without a plan in place for long-term deficit reduction.

Obama also wants to lift tough caps on federal spending enacted a few years ago. Some conservative Republicans want to exceed the cap for the military, but not domestic programs.

Congress “can’t flirt with another shutdown,” Obama said. “It has to pass a serious budget” and “get rid of some of these mindless cuts.”

Source: Reuters