Speaking from the White House, President Barack Obama on Monday warned that a federal shutdown would throw a wrench into the gears of the economy and would represent the “height of irresponsibility.” Read his full remarks below as published by CNN:
Good afternoon, everybody.
Of all the responsibilities that Constitution endows to Congress, two should be fairly simple: pass a budget and pay America’s bills. But if the United States Congress does not fulfill its responsibility to pass a budget today, much of the United States government will be forced to shut down tomorrow. I want to be very clear about what that shutdown would mean, what will remain open and what will not.
With regard to operations that will continue, if you’re on Social Security, you will keep receiving your checks. If you’re on Medicare, your doctor will still see you.
Everyone’s mail will still be delivered, and government operations related to national security or public safety will go on.
Our troops will continue to serve with skill, honor and courage. Air traffic controllers, prison guards, those who are with border patrol, will remain on their posts, but their paychecks will be delayed until the government reopens. NASA will shut down almost entirely, but mission control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the space station.
I also want to be very clear about what would change. Office buildings would close, paychecks will be delayed, vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on would be hamstrung.
Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Veterans who have sacrificed for their country will find their support centers unstaffed. Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty immediately closed. And of course, the communities and small businesses that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.
And in keeping with the broad ramifications of a shutdown, I think it’s important that everybody understand the federal government is America’s largest employer. More than two million civilian workers and 1.4 million active duty military serve in all 50 states and all around the world.
In the event of a government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of these dedicated public servants who stay on the job will do so without pay. And several hundred thousand more will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.
What, of course, will not be furloughed are the bills that they have to pay - their mortgages, their tuition payments, their car notes.
These Americans are our neighbors. Their kids go to our schools. They worship where we do. They serve their country with pride. They are the customers of every business in this country. And they would be hurt gravely. And, as a consequence, all of us will be hurt gravely, should Congress choose to shut the people’s government down.
So a shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right away. Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy significantly. This one will too.
It will throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction.
Five years ago right now, our economy was in meltdown. Today, our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs over the past three and a half years.
The housing market is healing. And our deficits are falling fast.
The idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility, and it doesn’t have to happen.
Let me repeat this: It does not have to happen.
All of this is entirely preventable if the House chooses to do what the Senate has already done. And that’s the simple act of funding our government without making extraneous and controversial demands in the process, the same way other Congresses have for more than 200 years.
Unfortunately, right now House Republicans continue to tie funding of the government to ideological demands like limiting a woman’s access to contraception or delaying the Affordable Care Act, all to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party.
Let me be clear about this. An important part of the Affordable Care Act takes effect tomorrow no matter what Congress decides to do today. The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down. This is a law that passed both Houses of Congress, a law that bears my signature, a law that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional, a law that voters chose not to repeal last November, a law that is already providing benefits to millions of Americans in the form of young people staying on their parents’ plan until they’re 26, seniors getting cheaper prescription drugs, making sure that insurance companies aren’t imposing lifetime limits when you already have health insurance, providing rebates for consumers when insurance companies are spending too much money on overhead instead of health care.
Those things are already happening. Starting tomorrow, tens of millions of Americans will be able to visit healthcare.gov to shop for affordable healthcare coverage. So Americans who’ve lived for years, in some cases, with the fear that one illness could send them into bankruptcy, American’s who’ve been priced out of the market just because they’ve been sick once, they’ll finally be able to afford coverage, quality coverage, many of them for the first time in their lives.
Some of them may be sick as we speak. And this is their best opportunity to get some security and some relief. Tens of thousands of Americans die every single year, because they don’t have access to affordable health care.
Despite this, Republicans have said that if we lock these Americans out of affordable healthcare for one more year, if we sacrifice the health care of millions of Americans, then they’ll fund the government for a couple of more months.
Does anybody truly believe that we won’t have this fight again in a couple more months?
Even at Christmas?
So here’s the bottom line. I’m always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better, to make sure our government works better. I’m always willing to work with anyone to grow our economy faster, or to create new jobs faster, to get our fiscal house in order for the long run.
I’ve demonstrated this time and time again, oftentimes to the consternation of my own party.
But one faction, of one party, in one House of Congress, in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election. Keeping the people’s government open is not a concession to me. Keeping vital services running and hundreds of thousands of Americans on the job is not something you give to the other side.
It’s our basic responsibility.
It’s something that we’re doing for our military and our businesses and our economy and all the hard-working people out there, the person working for the Agricultural Department out in some rural community who’s out there helping some farmers make sure that they’re making some modest profit for all the hard work they’re putting in.
The person working for HUD who’s helping somebody buy a house for the first time. There’s somebody in a DEO (ph) office, who’s counseling one of our vets who’s got PTSD.
That’s who we’re here to serve. That’s why we’re supposed to be carrying out these responsibilities. That’s why we should be avoiding these kinds of constant brinksmanship. It’s something that we do in the ordinary process of this extraordinary system of government that we have.
You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway, where just because there’s a law there that you don’t like.
The American people sent us here to govern. They sent us here to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make their lives a little bit better - to create new jobs, to restore economic security, to repair the prospects of upward mobility. That’s what they expect.
And they understand that there are differences between the parties. And we’re going to be having some tough fights around those differences. And I respect the fact that the other parties are not supposed to agree with me 100 percent of the time, just like I don’t agree with them.
But they do also expect that you don’t bring the entire government to a halt or the entire economy to a halt just because of those differences.
That’s what they deserve. They’ve worked too hard for too long to recover from previous crises just to have folks here in Washington manufacture yet another one that they have to dig themselves out of.
So Congress needs to keep our government open, needs to pay our bills on time, and never, ever threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
And time is running out. My hope and expectation is that in the 11th hour once again that Congress will choose to do the right thing and that the House of Representatives in particular will choose the right thing.
Thank you very much.
Architect of the brink: Meet the man behind the government shutdown
One of the most prominent developers of the plan that could shut the government down is a little-known congressman who has been in office only eight months.
This newly elected tea party aligned lawmaker downplays his position, saying he has relatively little influence. But in reality, his efforts have pushed Washington to the brink.
At issue is the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Some Rep
ublicans are demanding that it be dismantled — or at the very least delayed and they think the best way to do that is attach it to a must-pass bill to fund the government.
The idea has rankled Washington for more than a week and exposed fissures in the Republican Party.
So who is the lawmaker quietly influencing the debate?
Senator Ted Cruz, who staged a 21-hour talk-a-thon on the Senate floor disparaging Obamacare, would be a good guess. But it would be wrong.
The answer? Mark Meadows, who represents the western part of North Carolina and has wielded his influence behind the bright lights of the television cameras and the hot microphones.
In August, while lawmakers spent time in their districts, Meadows wrote a letter to his Republican leaders suggesting they tie the dismantling of Obamacare to the bill that funds the government for the next year.
Meadows successfully convinced 79 of his colleagues to sign on to his letter. And he went further, leading a group of 40 lawmakers to demand that the continuing resolution, or the short-term government funding bill at issue, zeroes out funding for President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement so far.
In a lengthy interview with CNN, Meadows explained his case.
“Our intent has never been to shut down the government,” Meadows said. “It’s to stop the (health care) law.”
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid called those advocating for such a plan “anarchists.”
A “bad day for government is a good day for the tea party,” Reid said on the Senate floor last week.
Republican leaders in the House were reluctant and dismissed the plan — at first. Speaker John Boehner and many Republicans believed the strategy could lead to shutdown as the Democratic-led Senate would never agree to such a plan.
Additionally, leaders believed that Republicans would be blamed for a shut down. Polling backs up their concern. A recent CNN/ORC International Poll indicated that 51% of respondents would blame Republicans. That’s a political risk that leadership didn’t want to risk.
Even though Meadows’ letter doesn’t represent a majority of the caucus, it was a factor in persuading Boehner to reverse course and put forward a plan that funds the government but defunds Obamacare.
Meadows said he understands that “leadership has a different responsibility.” And that leadership is responsible for thinking about the party. “This type of vote could potentially hurt our long term goals. I understand that,” he said.
But he said that’s not his concern.
“My job first is to make sure I represent the people back home,” Meadows said. “I don’t believe that when I get here that people expect me to look at the political implications. That’s for somebody else to focus on.”
For him, getting rid of Obamacare is priority No. 1. “To ignore that would be to ignore our duty to represent the people back home,” he said.
“For me it’s about representing the 749,000 people I was elected to represent,” Meadows told CNN in his small Capitol Hill office. He said his constituents want him to fight against Obamacare “regardless of consequences.”
Meadows represents a conservative constituency. He was elected in 2012 and succeeded Democrat Heath Shuler, who decided not to run for reelection after the latest round of redistricting made the district swing heavily Republican.
Meadows won by 15 percentage points. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the district with 61% of the vote, an impressive outcome in a state he won by 1 point.
But there’s more to the story. Meadows works very closely with the tea party groups and he is a conduit to their agenda.
In fact, his catapult from local businessman to elected official was launched with the help of local tea party groups. He underwent a vigorous interview process with the North Carolina-aligned tea party groups that included an intense vetting and interviewing process.
Jane Bilello, head of the Asheville, North Carolina, tea party group and its separate political action committee, said it is to ensure candidates “truly represents who we are and what we want them to do.”
Bilello is pleased with Meadows’ job performance so far. She said Meadows is “turning out to be our poster boy.”
On the issue of Obamacare, “he truly represents us,” Bilello said.
Well-funded national tea party-aligned organizations, such Freedom Works, are also watching closely.
Like Bilello’s organization, they hold lawmakers accountable. Not only do they keep scorecards of how lawmakers vote on legislation, they are keeping track of what letters they sign on to and their role in every step of the legislative process.
Republican leaders are well aware of the influence of these organizations.
Republican Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, who was elected in 1998 and finds himself between the new generation of tea party-aligned groups and the more traditional Republican leadership, said the tea party groups “impacts everybody.”
Billelo said that Meadows hosts conference calls with the groups’ members to explain what’s happening in Congress, including the challenges that he faces promoting their agenda.
She said he told them he’s “persona non grata” around the halls of Congress. Bilello said she and her members remind him: “They don’t elect you. We do.” They also offer assurance: “We have your back. We will support you,” Bilello said she tells him.
Meadows relayed a similar sentiment. “There’s nobody in Washington, D.C., who ever voted for me and there’s no one in Washington, D.C., who will ever vote for me,” Meadows said. “So it’s about representing the people back home.”
“I think everybody wants me to pick a fight with leadership,” Meadows said. But he contended that he isn’t about playing the rebel, but finding results.
Are his tactics working? Meadows said yes.
“The Senate for the first time is having to vote ... on Obamacare,” Meadows said. “That’s why we had to do this.”
The House has now voted 42 times on either defunding or repealing all or parts of Obamacare.
Many Republicans in the Senate thought the idea was a lost cause, including Texas Republican John Cornyn, who said Friday that the strategy “won’t work.”
The Senate eliminated the health care portion of the bill on Friday before sending a revised spending plan back to the House for consideration over the weekend. A shutdown would occur Tuesday, if there is no spending plan in place.
But Meadows successfully convinced a reluctant Boehner to go along with his plan. And then after it became clear the Senate wasn’t going to play ball, the speaker hoped to move past the fight and pass a funding bill that would be able to pass the Senate, meaning it wouldn’t defund health care.
But Boehner’s Republican caucus, once again with Meadows in the forefront, rejected that plan.
Boehner’s now working on a plan that will appease members such as Meadows.
What do shutdown and debt limit have to do with Obamacare?
Meanwhile, Meadows vowed to hold his ground.
“If there is a real plan to make sure we can accomplish it through some other means, I’m willing to look at that,” he said. But he said it must involve “at least delaying” the implementation of Obamacare.
If it doesn’t, he is willing to buck his leadership and oppose any bill he doesn’t think goes far enough.
He admits some will have to take “some tough votes” to take. But for him he’s right where his constituents want him to be.
“It’s a safe place for me to be,” Meadows said.
Meadows rejected the idea that he is adding to the gridlock in Washington. He said Washington politicians have lost their way, but it’s not because of their inability to compromise.
“Pragmatism has been at the cost of principle and principle has been at the cost of pragmatism,” he said.
Still, Meadows asserted that he is willing to compromise with the Democrats.
“My ultimate success will be viewed by whether there is something we can accomplish,” he said.