Obama: 'There is no winning' in shutdown fight

    3:38 PM, Oct 4, 2013   |    comments
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    WASHINGTON - President Obama disavowed the idea that the White House is "winning" the shutdown battle with House Republicans.

    "There's no winning," Obama said on a lunchtime visit to a Pennsylvania Avenue sandwich shop with Vice President Joe Biden. "No one is winning."

    The debate over who who was winning the shutdown defined the fourth day of the shutdown, as House Speaker John Boehner angrily denounced comments from an anonymous senior White House official that suggested the president sees political advantage to a shutdown. "We are winning. ... it doesn't really matter to us" how long the shutdown lasts, the official told the Wall Street Journal.

    "This isn't some damn game," Boehner said after a GOP conference meeting, slamming down a copy of the newspaper. "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 ... to reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare."

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a post on Twitter, "We utterly disavow idea WH doesn't care when it ends. House should act now, no strings."

    At the sandwich shop, Obama said the shutdown "could be over today."

    "I'm happy to have negotiations but we can't do it with a gun held to the head of the American people," he said. President Obama and congressional Democrats say they will negotiate on a broad, long-term budget deal after Republicans agree to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.

    The unnamed White House official quoted said essentially the same thing that Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was overheard telling his Kentucky colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on a live microphone Thursday: "We're going to win this, I think."

    As the shutdown ends its first work week, the impasse is beginning to do damage to the economy, economists said.

    Moody's economist Mark Zandi said the first week of the shutdown would shave one or two decimal points off his estimate of 2.5% economic growth in the fourth quarter. A two-week shutdown would reduce growth to 2%, and a three-week shutdown would bring it to 1.6%

    "If it goes on for a month, then growth will be closer to 1%, which I would characterize as pretty close to stall speed," Zandi said.

    That assumes the debt limit is increased by Oct. 17 -- which Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said must be done if Congress is going to avoid a first-ever default.

    "Let me be clear: If we breached the debt limit -- I think the the right word would be 'catastrophic' -- for the economy," Zandi said.

    Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said that doesn't have to happen. The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee said Treasury should prioritize payments on debt and Social Security, and accused Obama of trying to "spook the markets."

    But in an interview taped Friday for C-SPAN's Newsmakers, he also emphatically denied market-calming reports that Boehner would seek Democratic votes to raise the debt limit.

    House Democrats say they've been relegated to the sidelines.

    "It will take some coming together on the Republican side," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a CBS News interview. "It's very hard to negotiate with the Republicans when they can't negotiate with themselves."

    The House was preparing to vote Friday on bills that would provide short-term funding for disaster relief and a program that provides food aid to women and children. Democrats have consistently rejected a piecemeal approach, preferring instead to find agreement on a bill that would reopen the entire federal government.

    The Office of Management and Budget said Obama would veto the short-term measures. "Consideration of appropriations bills in this fashion is not a serious or responsible way to run the United States government," the OMB policy statement said. "Instead of opening up a few government functions, the House of Representatives should reopen all of the government."

    Another House measure to ensure that thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed this week receive their pay retroactively could be voted on Saturday, when House leadership has scheduled a series of votes on smaller funding bills.

    Follow @gregorykorte and @ccamia on Twitter.

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