President Barack Obama on Tuesday cast the first government shutdown in 17 years as the work of “one faction of one party.”
“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government all because they didn’t like one law,” Obama said.
Obama showed no signs of bending on his signature legislative achievement — Obamacare — to reach a compromise deal to fund non-essential federal functions.
“We may not know the full impact of this Republican shutdown for some time,” Obama said during a Rose Garden speech flanked by Americans the White House says were helped by Obamacare. “It will depend on how long it lasts. But we know a couple of things. We know that the last time Republicans shut down the government in 1996 it hurt our economy. Obama said, saying they were putting the still-recovering economy in danger.”
The government shut down at midnight when the House and Senate could not reach a deal on a temporary funding bill. As a result, non-essential functions such as the national parks will be closed until some deal is reached, and about 800,000 federal employees will be furloughed.
This marks the 18th time since 1976 that there has been a government shutdown. The dividing point this time was over the funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
“The Republican shutdown did not have to happen,” Obama said. “I want every American to understand why it did happen. Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the governmet unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act. They shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to milions of Americans. In other words, they demanded a ransom just for doing their job.”
Obama spoke from the White House Rose Garden, flanked by Americans he said have been helped by his signature health care law on the launch day for the uninsured to purchase health coverage.
“Rolling back the Affordable Care Act is all Republicans stand for these days,” Obama said. “Even though the government closed, a big part of the Affordable Care Act is open for business.”
Obama said he would not “give into reckless demands” of the GOP.
In the first gauge of public opinion taken since the shutdown, 72 percent oppose a government shutdown to block implementation of Obamacare, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a temporary spending bill last week fully funding the rest of the federal government with the exception of Obamacare. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a funding measure fully funding the government including the health law.
In response to the Senate rejection, House Republicans on Saturday passed a measure delaying – rather than defunding – the implementation of Obamacare for one year, which the Senate did not consider.
In a final effort to avert a shutdown, the House on Monday approved a measure that stopped short of delaying the entire law. Rather, it required members of Congress and staffers to be subject to the law and postponed the individual mandate that is set to take effect in January 2014 to be in line with the employer mandate that the administration already postponed until January 2015.
The Senate again voted to kill the House amendment before 10 p.m. Monday, and the House did not put forward another spending plan. Both parties are blaming one another for the government shutdown.
Obama said that the warning from Republicans about Obamacare haven’t come true.
“Contrary to Republican claims, this law hasn’t “destroyed” our economy,” Obama said. “What’s weighing on the economy is not the Affordable Care Act, but the constant series of crises and the unwillingness to pass a reasonable budget by a faction of the Republican Party.”