As the government shutdown entered its fifth day with no end in sight on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 President Barack Obama delivered his weekly address and Republican Sen. John Cornyn from Texas delivered the GOP weekly address, each urging the other side to help end the government shutdown. Both sides are continuing to blame each other, as the arguments and rhetoric remain the same from both sides, and there is no solution in sight.
The government has been partially shutdown since the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1. There has been little progress to end the first government shutdown in 17 years with both the Democrats and Republicans spending most their time blaming each other. The debt ceiling will also reach its limit on Oct. 17, without passing a bill to raise the debt ceiling limit the U.S. will default on its loans.
At the core of the conflict is the Democratic Senate and President Obama wanting a "clean bill", a stop-gap spending bill referred to as a Continuing Resolution (CR) without out any provisions attached, while the Republican controlled House of Representatives has been insisting on some provisions to delay aspects of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, the new healthcare law which started to formally be implemented with the health insurance marketplace being opened to individuals and families to start enrolling on Oct. 1, 2013.
Approximately 800,000 federal employees are furloughed as a result of the shutdown out of 2 million, and it also affects all aspects of the government at a time when the fragile economy is just starting to recover.
President Barack Obama's weekly address entitled "'Stop This Farce, End This Shutdown'" continued all the same themes, and phrases that he has been using since the conflict over a spending bill became intense three weeks ago, including accusing Congress of "demanding ransom" and keeping the "economy hostage." He spoke primarily of the affect the government shutdown has had on the American public, urging Republicans in Congress to pass a clean bill to end it, but also warning them of the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling limit.
The President began his address by quoting excerpts of letters he received from Americans affected by the shutdown, the diverse letters were meant to magnify how far reaching the shutdown's affect is.
President Obama then simplified the reason behind shutdown; "The Republican House of Representatives chose to shut down a government they don't like over a health care law they don't like." He then urged them to vote on a clean bill; "Take that vote. Stop this farce. End this shutdown now."
Obama continues to selectively blame Republicans in the House of Representatives, shifting the blame entirely on the Tea Party, despite the fact that the majority of Republicans kept party lines voting against clean spending bills in both the House and Senate. Obama stated; "There are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives willing to do the same, and end this shutdown immediately. But the far right of the Republican Party won't let Speaker John Boehner give that bill a yes-or-no vote." However, there are now a number of Republicans who want to end the shutdown with no additional strings attached.
Obama reiterated his position of not negotiating with the House Republicans using the same dramatic language he has been using in all his speeches on the topic. The President stated; "That's why I won't pay a ransom in exchange for reopening the government. And I certainly won't pay a ransom in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. For as reckless as a government shutdown is, an economic shutdown that comes with default would be dramatically worse. "
Concluding his address Obama again urged the Republican House to pass a spending bill that would reopen the government and to pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling before its deadline. The President requested; "Pass a budget. End this government shutdown. Pay our bills. Prevent an economic shutdown. These Americans and millions of others are counting on Congress to do the right thing. And I will do everything I can to make sure they do."
Sen. Cronyn in the GOP weekly address entitled "Democrats 'Refusing to Negotiate' on Shutdown" explained the Republican side of the debate. Most of his address recounted all the ways the Republican House has been thwarted by Democrats in the efforts to avert and end the shutdown, ensuring no deal would be made in effort to be the winner in a political game with the Republicans.
Sen. Cronyn expressed dismay about the shutdown, but like the President and Democrats he blamed the opposite side for not working to resolve the problem; "Like most Americans, I was disappointed when certain parts of the federal government were forced to shut down because Senate Democrats refused to make any changes whatsoever to the deeply flawed health-care law known as Obamacare. Republicans are eager to end the shutdown and move ahead with the fiscal and economic reforms that our country so urgently needs. But we're never going to make real progress without greater cooperation from our friends across the aisle."
Cronyn also delved into the major Republican complaint and request that the Democrats and President Obama negotiate so Congress can come to a solution and end the shutdown, stating; "The problem right now is that Senate Democrats are refusing to negotiate."
The Texas senator listed and described the three spending bills the House passed prior to the shutdown and the partial spending bills to fund certain agencies and programs the Democrats refused to pass. Cronyn recounted; "Meanwhile, President Obama has threatened to veto a series of individual House bills… When Republicans asked Senate Democrats to join with us and pass these bills, they simply said no."
Sen. Cronyn also brought up the Wall Street Journal article quote, where a senior Obama administration official declared the President and Democrats were "winning." Cronyn denounced the comment; "The White House recently claimed that somehow they were 'winning' and that it 'doesn't really matter' how long the shutdown lasts. Apparently they think the government shutdown is good politics, and they're in no hurry to break the stalemate."
The Republican Senator wanted to let the American public know that he believes the shutdown is a political power play, one meant for Republican to take the blame, and the force them into agreeing with their solution. Cronyn expressed; "It has become disturbingly clear that the Obama-Reid shutdown is no longer about health care, or spending, or ideology. It's about politics, plain and simple. The Democrats have calculated that by prolonging the shutdown, and maximizing the pain, they can bully Republicans into doing whatever President Obama and Majority Leader Reid want them to do. It's a very cynical game, but Democrats have decided to play it."
There have been a total of 17 prior 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.
Besides the ongoing rhetorical blame game, neither side has been actively doing much to end the shutdown. Each time the Republican House has suggested any bill this past week, whether it be the spending bills with provisions passed prior to the shutdown, the partial spending bills after it began or the conference invitation, the Democrats in the House and Senate have shot them down.
The Republicans are right only meaningful negotiations could end the crisis quickly, something Obama will not do, apart from meeting with the four Congressional majority and minority leaders for 90-minutes on Wednesday, Oct. 2, he maintains an unwillingness to compromise or negotiate, preferring a public relations campaign of speeches, and appearances meant to convince the American public that the shutdown is entirely the Republicans fault, leaving himself entirely blameless.
- President Barack Obama's Weekly Address: End This Government Shutdown, Oct. 5, 2013 | Download mp4 | Download mp3
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.