With the country on a verge of a government shutdown and days away from defaulting on their loans, President Barack Obama continued in his weekly address released on Saturday morning, Sept. 28, 2013 to urge Congress to pass a spending bill that will keep the government running and prevent a shutdown. But the House of Representatives and Senate cannot agree on a bill, at the heart of the conflict is funding Obamacare, the President's health care reform law the Affordable Care Act.
While the country's economic future is on the line, the House of Representatives, Senate and President Obama are locked in a power struggle. President Obama finds is more important to play a rhetorical sparring match with the Republican House than negotiate a compromise. The Republican House insists on any continuing resolution having a provision to defund or delay Obamacare, while the Democratic Senate does the President's bidding. At stake is 800,000 non-excepted federal employees who will placed on furloughed in a shutdown.
President Obama urged Congress to pass a spending bill in both a press conference on Friday, Sept. 27, and during his weekly address entitled "Averting a Government Shutdown and Expanding Access to Affordable Healthcare" released on Saturday morning, Sept, 28, 2013.
At his press conference the President repeated his messages from the past week blaming the House Republicans for the problems with passing the spending bill, all while taking the moral high ground filled with condescension and sarcasm saying he will not negotiate with them over the budget or the debt ceiling and that the health care law will be implemented no matter what.
The President concluded summing up his whole message; "And that's why we've got to break this cycle. My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time. Pay our bills on time. Refocus on the everyday concerns of the American people…. There will be areas where we disagree. But do not threaten to burn the house down simply because you haven't gotten 100 percent of your way. That's not how our democracy is supposed to work." The President acted blameless when a recent Blomberg poll shows that 61 percent of Americans disagree with his demands for clean spending and debt ceiling bill without any provisions.
President Obama has had no contact with the Speaker of the House John Boehner since last Friday when he curtly declared he would negotiate on the issues. Boehner's spokeman Brendan Buck issued a statement responding to Obama; "The House will take action that reflects the fundamental fact that Americans don't want a government shutdown and they don't want the train wreck that is Obamacare. Grandstanding from the president, who refuses to even be a part of the process, won't bring Congress any closer to a resolution."
The President returned to the same message urging the Republican House to pass the continuing resolution all while, casting all the blame on them and at the same time making the same sales pitch for his health care program's implementation as he has been all week.
Introducing his weekly address Obama said; "This Tuesday is an important day for families, businesses, and our economy. It's the day a big part of the Affordable Care Act kicks in, and tens of millions of Americans will finally have the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care as everyone else. It's also the day that a group of far-right Republicans in Congress might choose to shut down the government and potentially damage the economy just because they don't like this law."
President Obama concluded the address, with the same rhetorical moral superiority over the Republicans he has used for the past two weeks. Obama summed up, saying; "The American people have worked too hard to recover from crisis to see extremists in their Congress cause another one. And every day this goes on is another day that we can't continue the work of rebuilding the great American middle class. Congress needs to pass a budget in time, pay its bills on time, and refocus on the everyday concerns of the people who sent them there. That's what I'm focused on. That's what I'll keep fighting for."
The Republican's weekly address given by House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington state also dealt with raising the debt ceiling limit. Rodgers urged the President to negotiate with Congress to cut spending in order to raise the debt limit a practice used in the past "30 years" successfully, but which Obama now balks at.
Discussing the GOP's debt ceiling bill, Rodgers stated; "Our bill also increases the debt limit. The best way to preserve the full faith and credit of the United States is by strengthening it - which is what our plan does. Coupling an increase in the debt limit with efforts to rein in spending is common sense - so much so that it's been used by presidents from both parties…. "Unfortunately, the president is now demanding that we increase the debt limit without engaging in any kind of bipartisan discussions about addressing our spending problem. He wants to take the easy way out - exactly the kind of foolishness that got us here in the first place."
On Friday, Sept. 27, the Senate passed along party lines 54 to 44 a stop-gap bill that would fund the government for the next six weeks until Nov. 15, but it also includes funding Obamacare. The Senate then sent it back to the House to vote on it. The Senate bill passed even though Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX staged a 21-hour speech in the Senate arguing against Obama's healthcare law from Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 24 to noon on Wednesday; a marathon speech that most Senate Republicans opposed.
The House came back with their own plan on Saturday morning, Sept. 28, a spending bill that will fund the government for three months, but includes a provision to delay elements of Obamacare by a year. Republican leaders in the House said in a statement; "We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it's up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown."
Democratic leadership, however, stated they would never pass it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV. stated; "The Senate will reject any Republican effort to force changes to the Affordable Care Act through a mandatory government funding bill or the debt ceiling." While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, chided them; "Republicans have made their point, now we have to end it. They must abandon this dangerous path to create a Republican government shutdown." On Friday, Sept. 20 the House voted for a spending bill that also defunded Obamacare.
With all parties locking heads and no negotiations or concessions in sight the country will most probably see its first government shutdown in 17 years. President Obama and Congress were able to avert a shutdown during the last battle in 2011, because the President was willing to negotiate with Congress; discussions and reasoning averted a crisis then, but without that now no concession will pass at the last minute to save the day.
There have been a total of 18 government shutdowns in American history between the 1970s and 1990s, with the December-January, 1995-1996 shutdown being the longest clocking in at 21 days. Then as now a Democratic President Bill Clinton was in a fierce ideological battle with a Republican House of Representatives. Although there is little time left, both sides can still step up negotiate and compromise, giving each a little victory, because as long as both sides want it to be winner takes all only the American public will suffer lose and it will be both President Obama and Congress that are to blame.
- President Barack Obama's Weekly Address: Averting a Government Shutdown and Expanding Access to Affordable Healthcare, Sept. 28, 2013 -- Download mp4 | Download mp3
- President Barack Obama's Statement on Phone Call with Iranian President and the Budget and Debt Ceiling, Sept. 27, 2013
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.