|U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (C) speaks during an event highlighting health care priorities and funding on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., Oct. 3, 2013. (Xinhua/Fang Zhe)
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's refusal to work in a bipartisan way has led to the first partial government shutdown in 17 years, said U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Thursday, who insisted a key part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, should be delayed for one year.
"It's time for the president and Senate Democrats to put partisanship aside and sit down at a table so we can work out our differences," the No. 2-ranking House Republican said during a press conference Thursday.
The U.S. federal government lurched into a shutdown after the Congress failed to pass a funding bill by Monday's midnight deadline. Republicans in the House of Representatives were demanding changes to the Obamacare, President Obama's signature health care law, in exchange for funding the government, which the White House opposes. Democrats demanded a clean continuing resolution, or CR, to fund the federal government's operations without attached conditions.
"We must fix and restore the American people's faith in our economy and their trust in government, especially before we reach our debt limit deadline in a week or so," Cantor told reporters.
Washington faces another fiscal deadline. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress Tuesday the federal government will reach its debt ceiling of 16.7 trillion U.S. dollars by Oct. 17, and a failure to raise it would lead to a catastrophic default. However, House Republican lawmakers insisted that a debt ceiling increase should be tied with GOP policy priorities.
"The Republican position is we believe we should fund this government, but we also believe that there should not be any special treatment for anyone. And that is why we believe the right solution to that is to provide for a delay of the individual mandate under the health care law because what that says is big business, special interests shouldn't get special treatment and exemptions under that law if working people don't get it," Cantor said.
The White House in July announced to delay until 2015 the enforcement of a requirement for businesses with 50 or more full- time employees to provide health care insurance or pay a penalty, a major setback for Obamacare partly due to resistance from U.S. business owners. However, starting Oct. 1, Americans in different states without health insurance can begin signing up for coverage through online marketplaces named "exchanges" set by governments, the so-called individual mandate under the Obamacare. Americans have a six-month enrollment period for exchanges if they want to avoid a fine for not buying insurance.
Obama has carried an "I won, it's my way or the highway" attitude for five years, and he has not reached across the aisle to Republicans, who were also elected to solve the major problems facing this country, Cantor reckoned.
A White House meeting between Obama and congressional leaders Wednesday ended with little sign of progress toward ending the government shutdown, as Obama said he was not going to negotiate over the need for Congress to act to reopen the government or to raise the debt limit.