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US President Barack Obama has accused Republicans of pandering to the "extreme right wing'' of their party and holding Americans hostage in a budget dispute threatening to shutter the US government.
Obama spoke just before a scheduled meeting with his cabinet and as both parties in Congress remain deadlocked. Without a compromise by the end of the fiscal year at midnight (2pm today, AEST), the US government will partially shut down for the first time in 17 years.
Republicans, who have a majority in the House of Representatives, are seeking to force Mr Obama to delay or defund his signature "Obamacare" health insurance reform law in return for funding government operations.
They are using a similar tactic as Mr Obama also asks Congress for a lifting of the $US16.7 trillion ($18 trillion) US debt ceiling. Their proposals have been rejected by Mr Obama and the Democrats in Congress, who have a majority in the Senate.
If no deal is reached, the United States may begin defaulting on its debts by the middle of October.
Just over six hours before government services grind to a halt and thousands of federal workers are furloughed, Mr Obama said time was running out for a last-minute compromise.
‘‘The idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility and doesn’t have to happen,’’ Obama said.
‘‘Let me repeat that: It does not have to happen. All of this is entirely preventable.’’
''One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election,'' Mr Obama said on Monday (Tuesday morning AEST).
With markets sliding around the world, Mr Obama warned that bringing the government to the brink of a shutdown and threatening to force the US into a default was putting a still fragile economic recovery at risk.
Parts of the economy that depend on the government "would be hamstrung", Mr Obama said. A shutdown would have "a very real impact on real people, right away".
''Congress needs to keep our government open, needs to pay our bills on time, and never, ever threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America," he said.
''Time is running out. My hope and expectation is that in the 11th hour once again, that Congress will choose to do the right thing and that the House of Representatives in particular will choose the right thing.
''Unfortunately, right now, House Republicans continue to tie funding of the government to ideological demands like limiting a woman's access to contraception or delaying the Affordable Care Act, all to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party.''
Mr Obama also said it was not fair that people who had dug out of the worst recession in decades were again facing economic uncertainty.
AFP, Bloomberg, New York Times