WASHINGTON (AP) -- Prospects for a swift end to the 4-day-old partial government shutdown all but vanished Friday as lawmakers squabbled into the weekend and increasingly shifted their focus to a midmonth deadline for averting a threatened first-ever default.
"This isn’t some damn game," said House Speaker John Boehner, as the White House and Democrats held to their position of agreeing to negotiate only after the government is reopened and the $16.7 trillion debt limit raised.
House Republicans appeared to be shifting their demands, de-emphasizing their previous insistence on defunding the health care overhaul in exchange for re-opening the government. Instead, they ramped up calls for cuts in federal benefit programs and future deficits, items that Boehner has said repeatedly will be part of any talks on debt limit legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also said the two issues were linked. "We not only have a shutdown, but we have the full faith and credit of our nation before us in a week or ten days," he said.
Reid and other Democrats blocked numerous attempts by Sen. Ted Cruz to approve House-passed bills reopening portions of the government. The Texas Republican is a chief architect of the "Defund Obamacare" strategy and met earlier this week with allies in the House and an aide to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to confer on strategy.
In a lengthy back-and-forth with Reid and other Democrats, Cruz blamed them.