On the first day of a US government shutdown, President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged House Republicans to reopen the government, then act soon to raise the US debt ceiling.
But in another sign that he will not negotiate over these issues, the President said, "this is only going to happen when Republicans realize they do not get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands.
"As I have said repeatedly, I am prepared with Democrats and Republicans to do the things we need to do to grow the economy, create jobs and get our fiscal house in order over the long run, although I should add this shutdown is not about deficits or spending or budgets," he said. "After all, our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in 50 years. We have cut them in half since I took office. In fact, many of the demands the Republicans are now making would actually raise our deficits." The government shutdown "is about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who do not have it," Obama said in a Rose Garden appearance with a handful of Americans who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act, the three-year-old law that is the primary domestic achievement of the Obama presidency.
"This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days," Obama said. "I know it is strange that one party would make keeping people uninsured the centerpiece of their agenda, but that apparently is what it is.
"Stranger still is that shutting down the government does not accomplish their stated goal," he said. "The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House, that passed the Senate and the Supreme Court ruled constitutional," the President said. "It was a central issue in last year's election. It is settled, and it is here to stay. And because of its funding sources, it is not impacted by a government shutdown." House Republicans shut down the government "over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans," Obama said. "In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.
"One faction (the tea party) of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government all because they did not like one law," he said.
"This Republican shutdown did not have to happen, but I want every American to understand why it did happen," he said. "Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act." Congress does not just have to end the shutdown and reopen the government, but also must "stop governing by crisis," Obama said.
One of the most important things Congress must do in the next couple of weeks is raise the debt ceiling, he noted.
If the Congress forces the United States to default on its obligations for the first time in history, "it would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown, as bad as a shutdown is," the President warned. "It would be an economic shutdown.
"So I will speak more on this in the coming days, but let me repeat, I will not negotiate over Congress' responsibility to pay bills it has already racked up." Obama said. "I am not going to allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to refight a settled election or extract ideological demands. Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hardworking families over a law you do not like