A breakthrough on how to end the US government shutdown remained elusive as negotiations to raise the debt limit and avert a catastrophic default have now shifted to the Senate after talks between House Republicans and the White House collapsed.
The Senate will hold a rare Sunday session as politicians debate how to reopen the shuttered government and avoid a potentially calamitous failure to pay the country’s debt obligations.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate held direct talks for the first time in weeks yesterday,but there is little sign of any resolution to the crisis which the World
Bank chief Jim Young Kim said that US is headed towards a very dangerous moment.
The talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell represented the first face-to-face meeting between the two since July,the New York Times reported.
The US stands on the verge of a debt default for the first time in its history as the October 17 deadline creeps closer.
If a deal to raise the debt limit is not reached by then,the nation faces an unprecedented default,a prospect which has caused alarm both domestically and abroad.
The shutdown began when Congress missed the October 1 eadline to pass the federal budget.
Senator Dick Durbin,a Democrat,said the aim was to reach a deal on extending the debt limit before markets reopen n Monday.
“The conversations were extremely cordial but very preliminary of course – nothing conclusive,but I hope that our talking is some solace to the American people and to the world,” said Reid.
“We had a good meeting,” said McConnell,without elaborating. Reid then went to the White House for talks with President Barack Obama.
But he rejected a plan put forward by Republican Senator Susan Collins to allow the government to increase its debt limit until 31 January.
Democrats have a majority in the Senate,but could not muster enough support to advance a proposal to lift the debt ceiling there. Talks between House Republicans and the White House had collapsed earlier.
Republicans have refused to pass a new budget unless Obama agrees to delay or eliminate the funding of the healthcare reform law dubbed Obamacare.
Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have been sent home as a result of the shutdown. Obama has repeatedly said he would not undermine the law nor negotiate over larger budget matters,until Republicans vote to end the threat of default and has also rejected a short-term deal over the debt limit.
Republicans had this week suggested a six-week extension to US borrowing authority,but Obama said he wanted a long-term deal sensing the upper hand in the confrontation with opinion polls mostly blaming Republicans for the crisis.
“It wouldn’t be wise,as some suggest,to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple of months,and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season,” Obama said.
World Bank chief Jim urged US policymakers to quickly come to a resolution before they reach the debt ceiling deadline.
“The closer we get to the deadline,the greater the impact will be for the developing world. Inaction could result in interest rates rising,confidence falling,and growth slowing,” he said on Saturday.
“If this comes to pass,it could be a disastrous event for the developing world,and that in turn will greatly hurt the developed economies as well,” Jim said.
Meanwhile,in a sign of a possible thaw in the crisis,popular tourist sites like the Statue of Liberty,the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore,closed till now,have reopened enabling some workers to get back to work.