Over 800,000 federal workers are home from their jobs until further notice. Unless we are directly affected by this government shutdown, what does this time mean to us? Inconveniently, we are not able to access our driving records (bye-bye defensive driving course), last minute filing for taxes are a no go and sporadic closed signs permeate throughout the capitol. The Zoo is closed — What?
As the United States settles into its first government shutdown in 17 years, President Barack Obama is hailing a “historic day” for uninsured Americans who now can purchase health care coverage through new insurance exchanges.
He says the opportunity is life-changing for those who could not get access to health care before Tuesday’s launch of the exchanges.
The president spoke in the White House Rose Garden Tuesday alongside a group of citizens who plan to purchase insurance through the system.
His message to Americans is that the health care exchanges will not shut down since they are previously funded. Much of federal government has been shuttered because Congress hasn’t passed a budget bill.
Obama accused Republicans of making the concept of keeping people uninsured “the centerpiece of their agenda.” He says House Republicans have shut down the federal government over an “ideological crusade” against his health care law.
The president says Republicans should not be able to hold the entire economy “hostage.” He is urging them to reopen the government quickly and allow furloughed federal employees to go back to work.
The government shut down because Congress did not pass a funding bill ahead of Monday’s midnight deadline for the end of the 2013 fiscal year.
Earlier Tuesday, Obama sent federal workers a letter lamenting that they had become “punching bags” in Washington’s partisan fiscal fights. About 800,000 federal workers are being forced off the job.
Obama says that if the shutdown continues, it will make it more difficult to recruit talented people for government jobs.
With the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate stalemated, it was unclear how long the shutdown – and the loss of some government programs and services – could last. The Senate was poised Tuesday morning to reject the House’s call to form a negotiating committee to consider delaying the health care law in exchange for restarting the government.
Obama communications director Jennifer Palmieri said the White House was open to changes in the health care law in future negotiations, but not as part of passing a budget bill.
“What we’re not going to do is entertain those kinds of solutions when there is a gun pointed to your head,” Palmieri told MSNBC.
The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, called the failure to pass a budget “conduct unbefitting a responsible Congress” and said he hoped it could be resolved by the end of the day Tuesday.
But in the House, conservative Rep. Marsha Blackburn predicted the standoff would drag on if Obama and Senate Democrats refused to negotiate.
“You may see a partial shutdown for several days,” Blackburn, R-Tenn., told Fox News. “People are going to realize they can live with a lot less government.”
The health care law itself was unaffected as enrollment opened Tuesday for millions of people shopping for medical insurance.
It was the first shutdown since a budget battle between Republicans in Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton in the winter of 1995-1996.
How long will this surreal inconvenience last?