Now that we're hours away from a government shutdown (unless Congress can come to an agreement on a bill to keep funding the government in the next 7 and a half hours), President Obama delivered a statement urging Congress to pass a "clean" continuing resolution and keep the government open.
Calling the actions of those lawmakers who are using a government shutdown to try and pass measure to delay or defund Obamacare the "height of irresponsibility," Obama told Republicans in Congress that "you don't get to extract a ransom just for doing your job."
"Of all the responsibilities the constitution endows to Congress, two should be fairly simple," the president said on Monday, "Pass a budget, and pay America's bills." Saying that a shutdown seems likely at this point (though not inevitable), the President outlined the effects of the shutdown. First, he noted, "Social security will still send checks," and national security, mail delivery, prison guards, border patrol, and the U.S. military, along with a few other necessary services, will continue to operate.
But that's not true for quite a lot else: "NASA will shut down almost entirely," he added. "Office buildings would close, paychecks would be delayed," and a series of "vital services" would be "hamstrung," including Veterans' support centers. The shutdown, he added, affects hundreds of thousands of government employees. "They worship where we do... they are the customers of every business in this country," he said. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of government workers who would continue to work without pay starting tomorrow, Obama noted that several more hundred thousand would go on furlough. "What will not be furloughed are the bills they have to pay."
Then, the president outlined what needs to happen to avoid that scenario:
The idea of putting the American people's hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility, and it doesn't have to happen. Let me repeat this. It does not have to happen.
All of this is entirely preventable if the House chooses to do what the Senate has already done, and that's the simple act of funding our government without making extraneous and controversial demands in the process, the same way other Congresses have for more than 200 years.
Obama turned his attention to the health care law under fire. "An important part of the Affordable Care Act takes effect tomorrow, no matter what Congress decides to do today," he said, adding, "You can't shut it down." Speaking of the benefits of the law, Obama said that the Republican plan to delay or defund Obamacare would "sacrifice" the well-being of already sick Americans depending on the new law in the name of a political victory:
Republicans have said that if we'd lock these Americans out of affordable health care for one more year, if we sacrifice the health care of millions of Americans, then they'll fund the government for a couple of more months. Does anybody truly believe that we won't have this fight again in a couple of more months? Even at Christmas?
So here's the bottom line. I'm always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better, to make sure our government works better. I am always willing to work with anyone to grow our economy faster or to create new jobs faster, to get our fiscal house in order for the long run. I've demonstrated this time and time again, oftentimes to the consternation of my own party.
But one faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election.
The full transcript, via the Washington Post, is here.
Can't get enough government shutdown action? Head over to the Atlantic Wire's shutdown countdown and liveblog.