President Barack Obama sharply rebuked congressional Republicans for shutting down the government over their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and declared that Congress’ crisis-to-crisis style of government is “not worthy of this country,” during a Tuesday afternoon address from the White House Rose Garden.
Speaking roughly 13 hours after the federal government shut down for the first time in 17 years, the president made it clear that he views only one party as responsible for the standoff.
“This Republican shutdown did not have to happen. But I want every American to understand why it did happen,” President Obama said. “Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act.”
“They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans,” the president continued. “In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.”
The president went on to once again make the case for his health care reform law, the implementation of which ramped up on Tuesday when its online exchanges opened for business. But he repeatedly returned his focus to Republicans’ dogmatic opposition to the law, deploying sharp partisan rhetoric not used since his re-election campaign.
“This shutdown is not about deficits. It’s not about budgets. This shutdown is about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it. It’s all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said.
“This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days,” he added. “I know it’s strange that one party would make keeping people uninsured the centerpiece of their agenda, but that apparently is what it is.” The president also noted the irony that, despite the GOP’s repeated efforts to defund the law, its implementation is not affected by the government shutdown.
“I want to underscore the fact that Congress doesn’t just have to end this shutdown and reopen the government; Congress generally has to stop governing by crisis,” Obama stressed near the end of his remarks. “They have to break this habit. It is a drag on the economy. It is not worthy of this country.”