Congress looks for elusive path out of government shutdown

The way out of the political morass in Congress remains elusive as the U.S. enters the second week of a partial government shutdown and with a potential lapse in U.S. borrowing authority just 10 days away.

Though Republican lawmakers and President Barack Obama say they want to end the government shutdown quickly and avoid a historic default, there’s no sign they’re talking to each other and their demands are mutually exclusive.

The standoff, heightened by Obama’s refusal to negotiate on measures needed to keep the government solvent and running and House Republicans’ demand for a delay in the president’s signature health-care plan, means at least one side must make a concession or find a way to describe a concession as a victory.

“I don’t know what the path out this time is,” said Martin Frost, a former Democratic congressman from Texas, a veteran of the last partial government shutdown in 1996.

At least three possible routes include a resolution, based on previous deadlocks: the Senate jam, in which that chamber forces the House to accept a bipartisan compromise; the complete cave, where one party buckles under public pressure; and the fig leaf, where one side accepts a partial defeat while claiming a symbolic victory.

“There is a path out of everything,” said Representative Lynn Westmoreland, a Georgia Republican. “You just got to find it.”

Many parts of the government were shuttered Oct. 1 after Republicans insisted on linking funding authority to changes in the Affordable Care Act that Obama has said he won’t accept.

Debt Ceiling

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (CME:SPZ13) fell 0.8% at 9:32 a.m. in New York. Treasuries rose, with the benchmark 10-year yield falling four basis points, or 0.04 percentage points, to 2.61% at 8:40 a.m. in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.

The shutdown has become intertwined with the need to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. The U.S. will run out of borrowing authority Oct. 17, according to the Treasury Department, and cash reserves will run dry between Oct. 22 and Oct. 31, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Because of the partial shutdown, the U.S. has furloughed about 800,000 workers while others in critical jobs worked without immediate pay. The government shuttered national parks, closed Internal Revenue Service call centers and delayed the release of unemployment data. Some U.S. services, including Social Security benefits, continue.

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