President Obama on Tuesday placed the blame over the partial government shutdown squarely on Republicans’ shoulders.
“One faction of one party in one House of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government all because they didn’t like one law,” he said, speaking from the Rose Garden.
Obama added that the shutdown “did not have to happen,” and was a result of the GOP's “ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans."
His remarks come on the first day of the government shutdown, which coincided with the new rollout of Obamacare. Despite the shutdown, the president noted, Americans are still able to sign up online for health insurance.
Obama was accompanied by Americans who have already benefited from Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and those who are signing up for new health care exchanges that are available starting Tuesday. Because the exchanges are already funded, the programs will not be impacted by the government shutdown.
The government descended into a partial government shutdown at midnight–for the first time in more than 17 years–after Congress failed to agree on a spending plan.
Senate Democrats rejected several attempts by House Republicans to tie provisions of Obamacare to a budget agreement, leading to a stalemate.
Approximately 800,000 federal workers will remain on unpaid furlough as a result and a million more will be asked to work without pay.
Obama said America may not know the impact of the shutdown for some time and that it would depends on how long it lasts. He warned, however, that the last shutdown in 1996 hurt the economy.
He urged House Republicans to reopen the government and to restart the services Americans depend on. Obama said he was prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats but he would not negotiate over bills Congress has “already racked up” or over legislation –Obamacare—that’s already been passed.
Obama said the shutdown is not over a budget or deficits.
“It is all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act. This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days," he said. “It’s strange that one party would make keeping people uninsured a cornerstone of their agenda."