President Barack Obama scolded House Republicans on Friday for what he called their "grandstanding" and for threatening a government shutdown next week, and a possible default later. He called on Republicans to act responsibly as the nation heads toward another fiscal crisis.
“Don’t shut down the government,” Obama said. “Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time. Pay our bills on time. Refocus on the everyday concerns of the American people.”
The president was speaking at a press conference following the Senate vote to pass a 2014 continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1. The bill cleared the upper chamber along party lines, 54 to 44, after lawmakers approved an amendment to remove contentious language to defund Obamacare.
Obama criticized House Republicans for being more concerned about “appeasing the tea party” in their threats to force the government to close its doors unless the health care law is defunded or repealed.
But Obama was clear on the likelihood of his signature achievement being defunded: “That’s not gonna happen,” he said, adding that about 40 million more Americans will be able to by approvable health care when the health care exchanges begin operating on Tuesday,
“Those marketplaces are going to be open on Tuesday no matter what,” Obama said, “even if there is a government shutdown. That’s a done deal.”
The president reminded Republicans that service members fighting overseas are among those who will be affected if there is inaction on the budget. He said Republicans will have to decide “whether to join the Senate and keep the government open or shut it down because they can’t get their way.”
“This grandstanding has real effects on real people,” Obama said.
“Even the threat of a shutdown already is probably having a dampening effect on our economy,” he added. “So any Republican in Congress who’s currently watching, I’d encourage you to think about who you’re hurting. There are probably young people in your office right now who came to work for you -- without much pay -- because they believe that public service was noble. You’re preparing to send them home without a paycheck.”
On the matter of the debt ceiling the president reminded Congress that the world is depending on America and that no one fully understands what might happen should there be a U.S. default.
“But we know it would have a profound destabilizing effect on the entire economy -- on the world economy,” Obama said. “I’m willing to work with anybody who wants to have a serious conversation about our fiscal future. ... I’m willing to make a whole bunch of tough decisions -- ones that may not be entirely welcome by my own party. But we’re not gonna do this under the threat of blowing up our entire economy.”
Raising the debt limit, Obama said, is not a concession to him.
“That’s not doing me a favor,” Obama said. “That’s simply carrying out the solemn responsibilities that come with holding office up there. I don’t know how I can be more clear about this. Nobody gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States just to extract political concessions. No one gets to hurt our economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a couple of laws that you do not like.”
Shortly before Obama’s speech, Senate Democrats called on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to pass a clean continuing resolution.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the only thing that could cause a government shutdown at this point is another “tea party tantrum.”
“The absolute bare minimum we should be able to do in Congress is to keep the government open,” Murray said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, “We made it very clear that the only way to solve this problem is to accept what we’ve done.”
Reid refused to speculate on what the House will do next but said he will wait until the lower chamber sends something over and then proceed with stripping it of “all its craziness.”
At the same, Reid has called on anti-Obamacare Republicans to take a new route.
“Why don’t they get a life and talk about something else?” Reid said.
Laura is a U.S. politics reporter for the International Business Times. She was always fascinated by the BBC World News each morning on the radio in Jamaica. That, and a love...