News / USA

Obama: GOP Holding Americans, Economy Hostage in 'Ideological' Shutdown

US Government Shuts Down; Most Government Workers Sent Homei
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October 01, 2013
The US government shut down at midnight Monday, after Congress failed to pass a bill to keep the government running. The standoff revolves around a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over the President's signature health care reform law, with Republicans first proposing to defund it and then delay it in return for temporarily funding the government. Except for those considered "essential," federal workers in the United States are not on the job and many agencies are closed or partially closed. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti shows us the scene in Washington.

Related video report by Carolyn Presutti

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— With the federal government partially shut down amid vociferous debate in Congress over the health care reform law, President Barack Obama said Republicans are holding Americans and the U.S. economy hostage for ideological reasons.  

The first full day of shutdown coincided with the launch of new online exchanges that millions of uninsured Americans can use to purchase plans under the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans want the health care law to be defunded or parts of it delayed. They have linked these demands to legislation that would fund government operations.

How The Shutdown is Affecting Services

  • About 800,000 federal workers furloughed
  • The military's 1.4 million active-duty personnel remain on duty, their paychecks delayed
  • NASA is furloughing almost all its employees
  • Air traffic controllers and screeners staying on the job
  • Federal courts continue to operate
  • Mail deliveries continue since U.S. Postal Service is not funded by tax dollars
  • Most Homeland Security employees continue to work
  • Most veterans' services continue because they are funded in advance
  • National Parks and Smithsonian museums closing
In the Oval Office, Obama met with citizens who have purchased or plan to buy insurance. Afterwards, they went with him to the Rose Garden where he accused Republicans of holding the government and the economy hostage.

"Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act," he said. "They have shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.  In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job."

Under Obamacare, companies cannot deny coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition, or impose lifetime coverage limits.

Starting in 2014, most Americans must have health insurance or pay a fine, and have until March to sign up for insurance plans.  

The White House delayed online enrollment for small businesses until November, and postponed by a year a requirement for large employers to offer insurance to employees or pay a fine.

Obama acknowledged glitches in the rollout of the health care sign up process, including slowness of online exchanges, as millions of people accessed web sites.

Saying the longer the government shutdown continues the worse the effects for a recovering economy, he said he remains open to negotiation about ways to improve the health care law, but not open to dismantling it.

"I will work with anybody who has got a serious idea to make the Affordable Care Act work better, I have said that repeatedly, but as long as I am president I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hardworking Americans," he said.

But political stalemate continued on Capitol Hill. After the Senate rejected a House request for negotiations on the matter, Republican Speaker John Boehner expressed disappointment.

"My goodness, they will not even sit down and have a discussion about this," he said.

In addition to the nationwide impacts, the White House is hit by the government shutdown. More than 1,000 staff members are on unpaid leave, as are some 800,000 federal workers.

President Obama is due to depart Saturday on a week-long trip to Asia where he is scheduled to attend the APEC economic summit and other meetings.

Addressing speculation that Obama may be forced to cancel the trip to remain in Washington to deal with the government shutdown, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama still plans to make the trip.
 

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by: Nat from: perth, australia
October 03, 2013 12:11 PM
From an Australian....Why don't some Americans want affordable access for all Americans...to progress and advance your country u need to protect the vulnerable..How can u want to stop a legislation which is fair and equitable...America u are selfish and greedy and should be ashamed of yourselves!!!


by: BrianL
October 02, 2013 6:24 PM
I really don't see the role of the US president when he is being controlled by congress. The republicans need to be fine at a minimum of 1 million dollars a day for such nonsense and their private assets be sold and banned from congress that's what should be done even if illegal or unconstitutional to send a strong message.

Congress should not have such power, the president should be the one having the ultimate say in any country. In addition, if there is a majority of one party in a congress, the president should not be of an opposite party but of the majority. This is just an open mess when the president does not have a majority in congress.


by: Markt
October 02, 2013 8:39 AM
Oh, the irony...our Commander in Chief, the President is NOT going to remain in country to help solve this problem, but will fly to Asia for an economic summit. His own country in economic turmoil, and he intends to teach other countries about economics? Sure, we can't fund the government right now, so lets spend $182,000 an hour to fly Air Force One halfway around the world and back....(btw, that is the actual cost per hour to operate and maintain Air Force One). When the going gets tough, the leaders point fingers while the President takes a trip.


by: Cranksy from: USA
October 02, 2013 3:21 AM
The Republicans in Congress have gotten closer to destroying the country they love. Would that make them the legislative equivalent to suicide bombers?


by: Mike Siller from: Long Beach, Ca
October 01, 2013 10:02 PM
All the tea party members are becoming what they disliked about their party. We need the names and make sure we do what we need to make sure they do not get reelected.


by: JKF from: the great north!
October 01, 2013 8:25 PM
The Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) is the law; shutting down the gvmt and holding every gvmt worker hostage, because you do not like the law, is no way to legislate; it has become the lazy man's way to oppose a law. The Republicans instead of using the moral hi ground and legislate/ advance/ persuade/etc through intellect and address the majority THEIR STRATEGY is dastardly- why not hold everyone hostage? maybe that way the majority will support them-NOT LIKELY .... The people that are holding everyone hostage, because they are too lazy to do their work, are harming everyone in the US and US allies alike. Once again, as polls indicate, people support the AHCA. If any thing, its scope should be increased, and just as low income individuals get a subsidy, so should low income companies. I guess some in congress just want to see the entire economy of the US go down the drain, so that their big bank buddies can dramatically increase their earnings and bonuses, while the average US citizen struggles with his/her daily survival. Not a good situation, I guess as the people see how big interests are acting against them, the democrats will be a shoe in in the next election; and the Republicans are down the drain by their own foolishness; shuting down the gvmt is a failed strategy, putting low income gvmt employees on the streets is a failed strategy, harrassing citizens by deying services through this forced closure is a failed strategy....


by: Anonymous
October 01, 2013 7:10 PM
another anti-republican story from the Obama media lap dogs.


by: Insider from: D.C.
October 01, 2013 5:29 PM
AGENDA21 is ruining this country. Educate yourself about AGENDA21. AGENDA21 !!!


by: Markt
October 01, 2013 10:59 AM
800,000 people are not working today, they will not be working tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, or the next....while the 537 in congress keep working (I thought it affected ALL non-essential government employees) and keep getting paid their over-blown salaries. Obamacare, like much of the Obama Administration, is going to destroy millions of families already teetering on the edge. While it may allow 23 million Americans healthcare, it will hurt the other 290 million trying to keep any hold on their current health care. While Congress, of course, keeps its exclusive health care that is denied to every tax paying American. What a nice bunch of caring, sensitive and well meaning folks we have looking out for our best interests.....

In Response

by: tom from: work
October 01, 2013 12:34 PM
What we have from our goverment is big school yard with one small group of bullies, another group of standby do nothings, and the other group in denial. Seems like that is how Hitler came to power


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 01, 2013 10:07 AM
This is called 'audacity of hope'. This hope has failed; the government has shut down. The president had hoped it was going to be one of those times when bills are passed at the last minute, but he has mistaken. Subsidizing healthcare in America, are you going back to socialism? Insisting on the president's idea not the people's, is America staging a return to autocracy? What happens to compromise? What happens to president playing the card to avoid government shut down pending further negotiation? O yea, America seems to want to have a taste of the power of potentates in the Arab world. Welcome to Obamakingdom.

In Response

by: catharina from: usa
October 01, 2013 5:56 PM
you are seeing things all upside down ,the president has been negotiating with the repups many times before one can only do so much WE THE PEOPLE WANT affordable healthcare The repups do not want us to have it. The "little" people would be better off THAT is not on their agenda

In Response

by: catharina from: usa
October 01, 2013 5:49 PM
We are talking about affordable healthcare something every American can use ,not Obamacare .That is just the name given to it by the repulsive republicans who would like to see it gone.
We voted this President in for the 2nd time I guess a bit hard to swallow for the repubs

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