WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama has scaled back his trip to Asia next week because of the shutdown of the federal government, the White House said Wednesday.
In two communications, the White House press secretary’s office said Obama called Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Najib Abdul Razak to tell them he wouldn’t be visiting their countries.
The White House said the president still plans to travel to Indonesia and Brunei, where he is to attend two international summits.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry will visit the Philippines and Malaysia instead of the president.
“Due to the government shutdown, President Obama’s travel to Malaysia and the Philippines has been postponed,” Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said. “Logistically, it was not possible to go ahead with these trips in the face of a government shutdown. Because they are on the back end of the President’s upcoming trip, our personnel was not yet in place and we were not able to go forward with planning. ... Secretary Kerry will lead delegations to both countries in place of the President.”
She said Obama looks forward to visiting Malaysia and the Philippines later in his term.
Hayden placed blame for the shutdown squarely at the feet of Republicans in the House of Representatives, which they control. The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government,” she said. “A faction of House Republicans [is] doing whatever they can to deny America from carrying out our exceptional role in the world.”
She said evaluations of Obama’s travels to the summits in Indonesia and Brunei would be made during the week. The trip is scheduled to begin Saturday.
Meanwhile, US lawmakers and the White House braced for a long government-shutdown fight Wednesday, with the president planning events to stress its repercussions.
His events would also address the looming prospect of a first-time default on US debt, the White House said.
No negotiations were scheduled Wednesday on resolving the budget impasse that forced federal agencies to furlough more than 800,000 workers the day before.
The shutdown was sparked because Republicans were determined to scale back the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act before the insurance marketplaces opened on Tuesday.
The Republican-led House refused to fund federal agencies for the new fiscal year, which began Tuesday, without attaching provisions to delay or defund Obama’s signature healthcare reform. The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected each of those efforts.
Republicans and Democrats traded blame throughout the day Tuesday.
As prospects for a drawn-out shutdown increase, there is the growing possibility the standoff could become intertwined with an even larger battle over raising the debt limit in mid-October.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said he will begin running short of cash to pay the government’s bills unless Congress raises the federal debt ceiling by Oct. 17.
“The sad news is that, given the performance to date, that the debt-limit extension is coming up in two weeks, and this does not portend responsible action on the debt limit,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, told The Wall Street Journal.
Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican, added, “Every day we are here, the calendars are running together.”
Obama has said repeatedly he won’t negotiate over raising the debt ceiling, saying Congress has a responsibility to let the Treasury pay bills lawmakers have already incurred.