BY ALAN FRAM, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama laid the blame for the government's partial shutdown at the feet of House Speaker John Boehner, escalating a government-shutdown confrontation that was leading headlong into a potentially more damaging clash over the nation's borrowing authority.

Speaking at a construction company in Washington's Maryland suburbs Thursday, Obama cast Boehner as a captive of a small band of conservative Republicans who want to extract concessions in exchange for passing a short term spending bill that would restart the partially shuttered government.

"The only thing preventing people from going back to work and basic research starting back up and farmers and small business owners getting their loans, the only thing that is preventing all that from happening right now, today, in the next five minutes is that Speaker John Boehner won't even let the bill get a yes or no vote because he doesn't want to anger the extremists in his party," Obama said.

The dispute over the shutdown deepened worries about a bigger problem rumbling ever closer — a mid-October deadline for increasing the government's borrowing limit before it runs out of money to pay creditors. The U.S. Treasury warned on Thursday that failure to raise that debt ceiling could spark a new recession even worse than the one Americans are still recovering from.

"The president remains hopeful that common sense will prevail," the White House said in a written statement after an unproductive meeting at the White House about the political standoff that has idled 800,000 federal workers and halted an array of services Americans expect from their government.

Boehner, R-Ohio, complained to reporters that Obama had used the meeting simply to declare anew that he won't negotiate over his health care law.

House Republicans, pushed by a core of tea party conservatives, are insisting that Obama accept changes to the health care law he pushed through Congress three years ago as part of the price for reopening all of government. Obama refuses to consider any deal linking the health care law to routine legislation needed to extend government funding or to raise the nation's debt limit.

"We're probably through negotiating with ourselves," Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said on MSNBC.

Republicans who initially sought to defund the health care law in exchange for funding the rest of government have gradually scaled back their demands but say they need some sort of offer from Obama.

Expressing frustration after the White House meeting, Boehner said: "All we're asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare."

The White House said Obama would be happy to talk about health care — but only after Congress moves to reopen the government "and stop the harm this shutdown is causing to the economy and families across the country."

If the shutdown dispute persists it could become entangled with the even more consequential battle over the debt limit. The Obama administration has said Congress must renew the government's authority to borrow money by Oct. 17 or risk a first-ever federal default, which many economists say would dangerously jangle the world economy.

Treasury's report Thursday said defaulting on the nation's debts could cause the nation's credit markets to freeze, the value of the dollar to plummet and U.S. interest rates to skyrocket.

The shutdown stalemate is already rattling investors. Stock markets in the U.S. and overseas faded Wednesday, and Europe's top central banker, Mario Draghi, called the shutdown "a risk if protracted." Leading financial executives met with Obama, and one, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, said politicians should not use a potential default "as a cudgel."

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said the House could easily defuse the worsening situation.

"Get us through this six weeks and then let's sit down and figure out how we pay our debts and bring down federal spending," McCaskill of Missouri, said on MSNBC.

Republicans planned to continue pursuing their latest strategy: muscling bills through the House that would restart some popular programs.

Votes were on tap for restoring funds for veterans and paying members of the National Guard and Reserves. On Wednesday, the chamber voted to finance the national parks and biomedical research and let the District of Columbia's municipal government spend federally controlled dollars.

Democrats demanded that the entire government be reopened, and the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made clear that the GOP's narrower bills have no chance of survival. They said the strategy showed that Republicans were buckling under public pressure, with Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., saying groups like veterans were being "used as a pawn in this cynical political game."

Republicans countered that Democrats were being inflexible and were to blame for the continued closure of programs the GOP was trying to reopen. A favorite target was Reid, who has made clear that the Senate will be a graveyard for the Republican effort.

"The Senate's refusal to work with the House is an all-time low," Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., said.

Reid told reporters that Obama and Democrats are "locked in tight" on not diluting the health care law.

In an interview afterward, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scoffed at the president's stance.

"He can't get his way exactly the way he wants it because he doesn't control the entire government," McConnell said on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report."

Democrats continued lambasting Boehner and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the tea party hero who has helped sell fellow conservatives in both chambers on keeping the government shuttered until Obama retreats on his coveted health care law.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and other House conservatives said they met with Cruz and other Senate conservatives Wednesday to update each other on what was happening.

"We think we just have to keep talking about our message, which is real simple: 'Treat people fairly,'" Jordan said.

Republican leaders and many rank-and-file GOP lawmakers, especially in the Senate, had been reluctant to link demands for curbing the health care law to legislation keeping government open, concerned that voters would blame Republicans for any shutdown.

But Wednesday, Republicans solidly opposed an unsuccessful Democratic move to force the House to vote on a Senate-passed bill keeping government open until Nov. 15 without any strings on the health care law.

"Now that we've jumped off the cliff, lit ourselves on fire, we've entered the valley of death," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who has criticized the conservatives' strategy. "So now we've got to keep running and we have to hold together."

The House has approved legislation keeping the entire government funded through Dec. 15. It also would impose a one-year delay in the health care law's requirement that individuals buy health insurance, which would threaten to cripple the program, and block federal subsidies for health coverage bought by lawmakers and their staff.

As the politicians battled, mail continued to be delivered, air traffic controllers remained at work and payments were being made to recipients of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment benefits.

Taxes were still due, but lines at IRS call centers went unanswered.

Halted were most routine food inspections by the Food and Drug Administration and some loan approvals for many low- and middle-income borrowers were thrust into low gear by the Housing and Urban Development Department. National parks were closed.

Workers were furloughed based on how essential their jobs were to the nation: Only 3 percent of NASA employees were kept on, while 86 percent at the Homeland Security Department were working.

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From the White House:

On Thursday, October 17, 2013, the President signed into law:

H.R. 2775, the "Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014," which provides fiscal year 2014 appropriations for projects and activities of the Federal Government through Wednesday, January 15, 2014. The effective time for the continuing resolution begins on October 1, 2013. H.R. 2775 also extends the Nation's debt limit through February 7, 2014.

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Hours before Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) won a New Jersey special senatorial election to succeed the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), U.S. senators paid tribute to Lautenberg in their own way.

Rushed to approve a 35-page deal to fund the government and avert a debt default, senators allowed a few unrelated provisions to slip through.

One was section 146, guaranteeing $174,000 -- the equivalent of one year's salary -- to Lautenberg's widow, Bonnie Englebart Lautenberg.

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-- Ashley Alman

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Director of the Office of Management and Budget Sylvia Mathews Burwell released the following statement Wednesday evening:

"Now that the bill has passed the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, the President plans to sign it tonight and employees should expect to return to work in the morning. Employees should be checking the news and OPM's website for further updates."

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A shouting stenographer was removed from the House floor as lawmakers voted on a deal to reopen the government and avoid a debt crisis.

The stenographer began shouting as the the House approved the number of votes needed to pass the bill. According to reporters, she was yelling about God and Freemasons:

-- Paige Lavender

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The House voted 285-144 to reopen the federal government and raise the debt limit.

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HuffPost's Arthur Delaney and Dave Jamieson report:

After voting this year to keep federal employees' pay frozen, Republicans in Congress have accidentally given many government workers their first raise in three years.


It's one of several unintended consequences of the Republican gambit to defund Obamacare by shutting down the government. It isn't a nominal raise, and it won't improve most workers' lives one bit. In fact, so far it's brought mostly misery and anxiety. But here's how it's a one-time raise.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been off the job for two weeks due to the government shutdown. As part of the deal hatched Wednesday to reopen the government, Congress included a measure to pay those workers retroactively for the time they missed, as a matter of fairness, just as it has in the budget impasses of yesteryear. The rationale: federal workers shouldn't have to pay the price for Congress's failures.

But in a symbol of just how wasteful a government shutdown is, lawmakers -- many of whom complain that the federal workforce is bloated, and who haven't granted workers a single cost-of-living adjustment since 2010 -- have forced federal employees to perform two fewer weeks of work for the same salary, all due to congressional squabbling. That's a full pay period, amounting to 3.8 percent of annual wages.

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The House has voted to end the latest damaging battle of divided government in a polarized Congress.

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HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery reports:

There was a lot of back-patting among Democratic leaders Wednesday after the Senate passed its bill to end the government shutdown and avert a debt default. But some of their most effusive praise was for the leader of the other party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at the eleventh hour to avoid catastrophe.

"The Republican leader's cooperation was essential to reach an accord," Reid told reporters, noting his sometimes rocky relationship with the GOP leader. "I've worked with McConnell for many years. The last bit has not been ... [long pause] good."

McConnell "stepped up to be [Reid's] partner when it really counted," said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.).

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Despite President Barack Obama's optimism during quick remarks after the Senate vote, reporters remain skeptical.

"Mr. President, isn't this going to happen all over again in a few months?" one called out as Obama started to leave the briefing room.

"No," he said.

Laughter ensued.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday, averting a potential debt default and reopening the government while leaving the Obamacare virtually untouched, once passed by Congress and signed by the president.

Though the deal comes with concessions from both parties, McConnell managed to score an earmark that will benefit his home state of Kentucky.

Section 123 of the Senate bill secures $2.918 billion in funding for the Olmsted Lock and Dam Authority for a dam project on the Ohio River being developed by URS Corp., a construction management company. That's a huge boost from the $775 million originally allotted. URS told The Wall Street Journal that the project -- one of the largest taken on by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- would halt without more funding.

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-- Ashley Alman

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President Barack Obama said during a press conference tonight that once an agreement arrives on his desk, he will sign the bill "immediately."

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Here are the 18 senators, all Republicans, who voted against the final deal to end the shutdown and avert a debt default.

Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Dean Heller (Nev.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Jim Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), David Vitter (La.).

-- Jennifer Bendery

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The final Senate vote was 81-18.

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The Senate voted 83 to 16 in the first of two votes Wednesday night to reopen the federal government and raise the nation's borrowing limit, hours before the Treasury Department faced the possibility of being unable to pay all of America's bills for the first time in modern history.

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HuffPost's Michael McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui report:

The government shutdown is dead. Obamacare is alive.

The Senate voted 83 to 16 in the first of two votes Wednesday night to reopen the federal government and raise the nation's borrowing limit, hours before the Treasury Department faced the possibility of being unable to pay all of America's bills for the first time in modern history.

The House was expected to follow, ending the latest damaging battle of divided government in a polarized Congress.

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