Obama, Republicans Fight: Government Shutdown

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U.S. President Barack Obama said on the first day of a partial federal government shutdown that House Republicans are on an “ideological crusade” against his health-care law, and called on them to stop holding the economy hostage.

Obama, in a speech Tuesday afternoon in the White House Rose Garden, urged Republicans to reopen the government quickly and allow furloughed federal employees to return to work.

“They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health care to millions of Americans,” Obama said, surrounded by people he said were relying on the new health law.

By forcing the close of much of the government, Obama concluded, an out-of-control faction of House Republicans is putting the nation’s fragile recovery at risk of an “economic shutdown.”

The partial government shutdown is the latest twist in a long-running dispute over Obama’s health-care law, over which a temporary funding bill has been stalled, forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspending most non-essential programs and services.

Shortly after Obama’s speech, House Republicans moved to pass a series of targeted bills aimed at providing just enough funding to reopen programs for veterans, shuttered federal parks and to restore funds for the District of Columbia. The proposal was rejected by the White House.

The shutdown, the first since the winter of 1995-96, closed national parks, museums along the Washington Mall and the U.S. Capitol visitors center, along with monuments like the National WWII Memorial – which was reportedly stormed and occupied by Second World War veterans who traveled from Mississippi to visit the monument – and the Statue of Liberty. Agencies like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency will be all but shuttered.

Unexpectedly high internet traffic volumes to HealthCare.gov – the website serving as the gateway to the new online health insurance marketplace – has registered over one million visits, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The higher than normal volume led to delays, an official said.

People classified as essential government employees — such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors — will continue to work.

The military will be paid under legislation freshly signed by Obama, but paychecks for other federal workers will be withheld until the impasse is broken. Federal workers were told to report to their jobs for a half-day but to perform only shutdown tasks like changing email greetings and closing down agencies’ internet sites.

The self-funded Postal Service will continue to operate and the government will continue to pay Social Security benefits and Medicare and Medicaid fees to doctors on time.

The Senate twice on Monday rejected House-passed bills that, first, conditioned keeping the government open to delaying key portions of the 2010 “Obamacare” law that take effect Tuesday, and then delayed for a year the law’s requirement that millions of people buy medical insurance. The House passed the last version again early Tuesday; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the same fate awaits it when the Senate reconvenes Tuesday morning.

“You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there’s a law there that you don’t like,” Obama said Monday, delivering a similar message in private phone calls later to Republican House Speaker John Boehner and other lawmakers.

The U.S. Capitol as seen through a chain fence in Washington. U.S. President Barack Obama said on the first day of a partial federal government shutdown that House Republicans are on an “ideological crusade” against his health-care law, and called on them to stop holding the economy hostage.

“We can’t win,” said Senator John McCain of Arizona, adding that “sooner or later” the House would have to agree to Democrats’ demands for a simple, straightforward funding bill reopening the government.

((Sourced from CBC.ca))

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