An hour ago, President Barrack Obama held a press conference calling out the Republican-led threat to shut down the government unless Obamacare implementation is delayed one year and key components of the health care law are rescinded — chiefly, a woman’s access to birth control. Obama urged the House to pass a budget bill free of “controversial” add-ons, “as Congress has done for more than 200 years.”
As Aljazeera reported:
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Obama called the shutdown “entirely preventable,” and warned that it would have a “very real economic impact” on Americans. It would “throw a wrench into the gears” of a recovering economy, he added.
Obama urged the House of Representatives to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government running.
Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) held a press conference after the Senate rejected the House budget bill that would have funded the government for another six weeks with the provisions that the Affordable Care Act be delayed and that employers could deny offering insurance coverage of contraceptives as part of what Republicans call a “conscience clause.” Reid called this latest attempt by the GOP to hold America’s budget over a barrel a “banana Republican mindset.”
“As we said Friday — nothing’s changed — they try to send us something back, they’re spinning their wheels,” Reid explained. “We are not going to change Obamacare. They want any changes in Obamacare, wait until after the debt ceiling, wait until they’re willing to sit down and do a budget for us, with us and approach this in a reasonable manner.”
This game of chicken between the two parties is becoming all too familiar as Republicans continue to threaten government shut-downs in order to get what they want. Indeed, ThinkProgress has compiled a list of 21 different demands the GOP has made in order to get a budget passed. They include approving Keystone XL, defunding Planned Parenthood, Medicare privatization, defunding Obamacare, cutting funding for food stamps, rescinding the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over regulating greenhouse gases, and protections for mountaintop strip-mining. And this is all since 2011.
One wonders who House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is trying to woo with this latest stunt. It appears that Americans are growing weary of these party staring contests. According to a CNN/ORC poll conducted over the weekend, nearly half of Americans (46 percent) would blame the GOP for a government shutdown. A similar CBS/New York Times poll showed 44 percent of Americans would blame Republicans. Meanwhile, the president would be blamed by 36 and 35 percent, respectively.
If anything, this game seems to be less about Obamacare — which is fully funded and will be fully implemented starting tomorrow — or even about shutting down the government for the first time in 17 years than it may be about Boehner’s last stand at preserving his place as House Speaker. Emerging from a party meeting yesterday, many Republicans have been giving credit for this budget showdown to Texas’ junior senator Ted Cruz. The Republican senator has been in limelight of late, especially after giving one of the more ironic filibusters in recent history by reading Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham as a metaphor for how much he dislikes Obamacare. Unfortunately for Cruz, many Americans, especially liberals, have seized on the fact that the Seuss classic is about a character who decides with great jubilation that he likes green eggs and ham after he tries it.
All of this is of little comfort to those who will be effected by a government shutdown, including a host of civilian defense employees. While funding for active-duty military and some veteran’s services has been approved, a government shutdown would mean a delay in pay or an automatic unpaid furlough for thousands of government employees. Vital programs, such the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka food stamps, would be partially closed and would only have one month’s funding. Veteran’s benefits checks would only be funded for two weeks. But the food safety inspections, hazardous chemical inspections, and many other important services would be closed or partially closed indefinitely. In fact, a shutdown will cost Americans potentially billions of dollars. During the last shutdown, in 1996, it cost $1.4 billion (or $2.1 billion, adjusted for inflation) for a combined 26-day shutdown. Meanwhile, Congress will see no disruption in pay or benefits during a shutdown, although many senators have said they won’t take a salary if that happens — except Cruz.
The question now is how far will members of the two houses and the president take this game of chicken? Will we see an 11th hour rescue? We’ll find out by midnight (Eastern) tonight.