With lawmakers seemingly deadlocked and a federal government shutdown just hours away, President Obama on Monday afternoon bluntly laid out the consequences if Congress fails to act — and accused House Republicans of trying to “extract a ransom” to keep Washington up and running.
“A shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people right away. It would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction,” Mr. Obama said. “Veterans who have sacrificed for their country will find their support centers unstaffed. Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments — from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the State of Liberty — immediately closed. And, of course, the communities and the small businesses that rely on those national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.”
Mr. Obama make his remarks in the White House briefing room, a rare appearance by the commander-in-chief that underscored the gravity of the situation.
Mr. Obama spoke as Congress continued wrangling over measures to fund the government past midnight, when the current fiscal year expires. House Republicans are seeking to tie any such spending plan to the defunding, delay or repeal of the president’s signature health care reform law.
Such attempts have been rebuffed in the Senate, and the White House has accused House Speaker John Boehner of bowing to pressure from the tea party wing of his caucus rather than governing responsibly.
Republicans argue that Obamacare must be, at the very least, delayed. Most if not all in the GOP caucus advocate a complete and total repeal, even though such a step won’t pass the Senate and would be vetoed by the president.
But efforts to stop Obamacare, the president said, are futile.
“No matter what Congress decides to do today, the Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down,” Mr. Obama said, echoing similar remarks from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has vowed any House measure that attacks the health care reform law will not pass his chamber.
The president also dismissed the notion that the GOP would be caving in if it accepts a deal to move Obamacare forward and keep the government open.
“Keeping the people’s government open is not a concession to me,” Mr. Obama said. “You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there’s a law there that you don’t like.”
Ahead of a shutdown, the White House has begun to turn attention toward real-life examples of how a shutdown would harm Americans. The administration has cited veterans’ services being suspended, national parks being closed and other services that would be suspended if a deal isn’t reached.
The president did, however, point out that if the government shuts down: medicare and Social Security will continue as usual; mail delivery will go on; national security and safety operations won’t be shut down; and U.S. troops will continue to serve abroad and at home.