President Obama on Wednesday continued tying the government shutdown to House Republicans, making the case there are real people in the D.C. region and beyond who are being harmed by partisan gridlock.
“This isn’t a game of chicken. There are people who are being impacted every day, obviously in the D.C. metro region, people are affected that much more,” Mr. Obama told Washington’s NBC affiliate, one of four interviews the commander-in-chief conducted with local TV stations on Wednesday afternoon. The interviews aired Wednesday evening.
“I’ve got young staff who are already not getting paid a lot and now they’re not getting a paycheck,” the president added.
Wednesday’s interviews gave the president another opportunity to place blame for the federal shutdown — and potentially for a looming default on the U.S. debt — solely on the shoulders of the Republican Party, and tea party members in the House in particular.
He told Tampa’s NBC affiliate that the U.S. shouldn’t even be “considering” going past its legal debt limit, which analysts believe could be reached as soon as next week.
Many Republicans want to tie a new spending plan to reopen the government, or a debt-ceiling increase, to changes in Obamacare, the president’s signature health care law.
In a sit-down with Richmond’s WTVR, the president defended that law despite growing evidence that businesses are cutting back on workers’ hours because of it.
“A lot of this stuff has been happening for the last several years that doesn’t have to do with the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Obama said. He said employers have been “loading off costs” of health care onto employees for a long time.
Anecdotal evidence is increasing that employers are reducing workers’ hours below 30 per week to avoid the law’s requirement to provide health insurance for full-time employees — defined as 30 hours per week — or pay a $2,000 fine. Investors Business Daily also has compiled a list of more than 300 employers it says are reducing full-time jobs due to the law, including more than 50 colleges and universities.
Enrollment in online health-insurance “exchanges” started last week with heavy interest and a multitude of glitches on web sites. The law takes effect for some consumers on Jan. 1.
In his interview with Tampa’s NBC station, Mr. Obama also said that he sought to restore health benefits for the families of fallen troops as soon as he learned of the problem. A private charity has agreed to pick up those costs and then be reimbursed once the government is back up and running.
“I am not going to wait for Congress, and I ordered Chuck Hagel, secretary of defense, to go ahead and fix it,” he said.