US President Barack Obama answers a question during a press conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington DC yesterday, as the crisis over a US government shutdown and debt ceiling standoff deepens. Obama told House Republicans to stop making threats and pass a budget, which would bring an end to a crippling government shutdown.
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama yesterday sought to reassure jittery markets and nervous allies that the United States would continue to pay its bills despite the current political crisis.
“Obviously my message to the world is the United States always has paid its bills and it will do so again,” Obama told White House reporters, warning however that until the government shutdown ends there was “a cloud” over America’s economic credibility.
Failure to raise the US debt ceiling would cause the United States to default on its bills and would be “dramatically worse” than the current shutdown, President Barack Obama warned.
“As soon as Congress votes to reopen the government, it’s also got to vote to meet our country’s commitments, pay our bills, raise the debt ceiling,” Obama said. “As reckless as a government shutdown is, the economic shutdown caused by America defaulting would be dramatically worse,” he added.
Criticising the rival Republican Party, Obama said that lawmakers had two “very basic jobs” of passing a budget and “making sure that America’s paying its bills.” Members of Congress “don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs,” he said.
“We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy. Democracy doesn’t function this way. And this is not just for me. It’s also for my successors in office, whatever party they’re from,” he said.
The US government, which has been partially shut down for the past week, faces an October 17 deadline to raise its borrowing limit or go into default.
But House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, has warned that he will not allow Congress to raise the ceiling unless Obama offers concessions on his signature reform of expanded health care coverage.
Meanwhile, Obama said that an alleged top Al Qaeda operative snatched in a US commando raid in Libya will be brought to justice.
Vowing that the United States will continue to hunt down regional terror groups, Obama told reporters that Abu Anas Al Libi “helped plan and execute plots that killed hundreds of people, a whole lot of Americans. We have strong evidence of that. And he will be brought to justice”.
US commandos on Saturday seized Libi off the streets of Tripoli as he was parking his car and took him to a warship, where he is being interrogated under military detention.
Libya has denounced the operation as a kidnapping and summoned the US ambassador Deborah Jones to ask for a full explanation of what occurred.
So far the United States has refused to say publicly whether it sought permission from Libya’s pro-Western but weak central government for the operation, but insisted it was legal under American domestic law.
Obama however refused to answer a question at a White House press conference on whether he believed Libi’s capture inside Libya was in accordance with international law.
He defended US actions though saying that in parts of Africa radical groups could mobilise because of “the lack of capacity on the part of the governments, in some cases because it is easier for folks to hide out in vast terrains that are sparsely populated.”
“We’re going to have to continue to go after them,” the US commander-in-chief said. “But there’s a difference between us going after terrorists who are plotting directly to do damage to the United States and us being involved in wars,” he insisted.
And he stressed that since “the risks of terrorism and terrorist networks are going to continue for some time to come” the United States needs “a long-term plan” that is not just based solely on the country’s military strength.
Libi — real name Nazih Abdul Hamed Al Raghie — was on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $5m bounty on his head for his alleged role in the 1998 twin bombings of two US embassies in East Africa.