A day after a failed talk with congressional leaders, President Barack Obama took his case to the court of public opinion on Thursday, calling on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to call a vote on a Senate-passed “clean” continuing resolution. That way, Obama said, the American people can truly know who is shutting down the government.
“My simple message today is call a vote,” Obama said while speaking at M. Luis Construction, a small asphalt company in Maryland with about 250 employees. “Put it on the floor and let every individual member of Congress make up their mind.”
“There is one way out of the reckless and damaging Republican shutdown,” he later said. “Congress has to pass a budget that funds our government with no partisan strings attached.”
As the blame game on who caused the shutdown -- the first in 17 years and now in its third day -- continues, the president sought to make the case with ordinary working-class Americans. He told construction workers that the economy has been improving, leading to more job creation and more small business loans.
However, a stalemate over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the health care law the Republicans have fought since its 2010 enactment, is preventing a reopening of the government. The same feud is about to spill over into a fight over the debt limit increase in two weeks, which could trigger a U.S. default that could have global economic consequences.
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“If we screw up, everybody screws up,” Obama said. “The whole world will have problems. (...) There will be no negotiations over this.”
The president said the sooner Republicans heed the warnings of economists and chief executives, the less damage will be done to the economy and businesses.
“Just vote and end this shutdown,” he said. “And you should do it today.”
Following the White House meeting on Wednesday, Boehner told reporters it was a “nice” and “polite” conversation, but Obama refused to negotiate. The speaker reiterated that the Democratic-controlled Senate has rejected four different proposals the Republican-majority House sent over and that he has asked for a conference between the two chambers to resolve differences.
“All we’re asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare,” Boehner said. He was referring to calls for Obama to give individual Americans the same one-year delay in the implementation of the law that he has given to businesses.
Boehner’s pleas were echoed Thursday morning on the Senate floor, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked the president and Democrats to “treat everybody the same.”
“The question at this point is how do we resolve the issue that truly divides us?” McConnell said, adding that the government is shut down because Democrats are refusing to apply a simple rule of fairness.
Still, with about 20 House Republicans already willing to vote for a clean continuing resolution, Democrats have ammunition to hold their ground in the fight, as those Republicans would give them the majority if they broke ranks in a vote -- were Boehner to allow one.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Democrats are willing to go to conference with Republicans to talk about “whatever you want to talk about,” but not until the shutdown has been lifted.
“House Republicans truly don’t know what they want,” Reid said. “They can’t take ‘yes’ for an answer now. .... They have had trouble agreeing to anything for quite some time now.”
And as some Republicans continue to blame tea party Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for not having a game plan to end the shutdown, Reid is publicly appealing to the moderates in the party.
“That’s the danger of following the tea party,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “You follow them, you’re headed off a cliff.”
He called on other Republicans to “defy their tea party overlords.”
“If you ever hope to end this Republican shutdown,” Reid said, “get rid of the tea party direction and work with us.”