Obama blames 'far right' Republicans for 'messing with him' as US government shutdown looms
After House Republicans passed a bill on Friday that would maintain government spending until December at the cost of defunding the president's signature healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act, Obama said: "After five years spent digging out of crisis, the last thing we need is for Washington to manufacture another."
He continued: "The most basic constitutional duty Congress has is passing a budget. But if it doesn't pass one before 30 September … the government will shut down. And so will many services the American people expect. Military personnel, including those deployed overseas, won't get their paychecks on time. Federal loans for rural communities, small business owners, and new home buyers will be frozen. Critical research into life-saving discoveries and renewable energy will be immediately halted. All of this will be prevented if Congress just passes a budget."
Obama has said that he will veto the House bill – though it is almost certain not to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The president also addressed the impending danger of Congress refusing to raise America's debt ceiling, citing as an example of good practice an icon of the Republican right. "Congress must authorise the Treasury to pay America's bills," he said. "This is done with a simple, usually routine vote … Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every president has signed it – Democrats and Republicans, including President Reagan. And if this Congress doesn't do it within the next few weeks, the United States will default on its obligations and put our entire economy at risk.
"This is important: raising the debt ceiling is not the same as approving more spending. It lets us pay for what Congress already spent. It doesn't cost a dime, or add a penny to our deficit."
Obama made an explicit case against the Republican effort to defund and defeat his healthcare reform, known as Obamacare, but was careful to make an appeal to what he called "reasonable Republicans".
"Reducing our deficits and debt isn't even what the current standoff in Congress is about," Obama said. "Democrats and some reasonable Republicans are willing to raise the debt ceiling and pass a sensible budget – one that cuts spending on what we don't need so we can invest in what we do. And I want to work with those Democrats and Republicans on a better bargain for the middle class.
"But there's also a faction on the far right of the Republican party who've convinced their leadership to threaten a government shutdown if they can't shut off the Affordable Care Act. Some are actually willing to plunge America into default if they can't defund the Affordable Care Act. Think about that. They'd actually plunge this country back into recession – all to deny the basic security of health care to millions of Americans.
"Well, that's not happening. And they know it's not happening."
Obama concluded: "We are running out of time to fix this. But we could fix it tomorrow. Both houses of Congress can take a simple vote to pay our bills on time, then work together to pass a budget on time."
Voice of Russia, The Guardian