WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) – President Barack Obama says House Republicans have shut down the federal government over an “ideological crusade” against his health care law.
Congress plunged the nation into a partial shutdown Tuesday amid a long-running dispute over the Affordable Care Act. The issue stalled a temporary funding bill, forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspending most non-essential federal programs and services.
President Obama, speaking from the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday afternoon, slammed House Republicans, saying they chose to defund part of the government.
“They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans,” said the president. “In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.”
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. Agencies like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency will be all but shuttered.
“We know that the last time Republicans shut down the government in 1996, it hurt our economy,” said Obama.
The president noted the economy is more fragile now than it was 17 years ago.
People classified as essential government employees – such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors – will continue to work.
In New York, 72,000 federal employees are expected to be out of work.
On Long Island, the shutdown has so far not frozen Nassau County’s superstorm Sandy cleanup efforts.
“We have people and staff in various departments that deal with the federal government just double-checking and trying to understand if there is any local effect. There doesn’t appear to be any right now. But again, very early. Just happened last night,” County Executive Ed Mangano told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs.
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.
“I urge House Republicans to reopen the government, restart the services Americans depend on and allow the public servants who have been sent home to return to work,” said the president.
Watch President Obama’s Full Rose Garden Remarks:
Members of Congress and the Senate are considered essential federal employees and are still working. Therefore they will continue to get paid.
As CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday, one would think the men and women who voted to put so many federal workers out of work would request to have their $174,000-a-year salary held, at least until the shutdown is over.
But that hasn’t happened. A CBS 2 News poll of some 50 Tri-State Area senators and congressmen found just three Republicans — Buffalo Congressman Chris Collins, Westfield, N.J. Rep. lLeonard Lance and and Mays Landing, N.J. Rep. Frank Lobiondo — who thought there might be something well, unseemly, about collecting a paycheck and took direct action.
Lobiondo wrote a letter to the chief administrative officer of the House, saying: “I request that my congressional pay be suspended until normal operations are restored,” Kramer reported.
And when his pay is sent to him retroactively Lobiondo plans to write a check to the Treasury to cover the pay he receives during the time of the shutdown.
Collins went one step further. He not only wrote asking that his pay be withheld, he introduced a bill — the Government Shutdown Fairness Act — which, if passed, would force elected officials to forfeit salary during the shutdown.
A spokesman for former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan said the Toms River, N.J. congressman has signed onto the Collins bill. Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm said he supports it, too.
“Would certainly vote not to, so if that’s a vote that comes to the floor I would vote yes to not take a salary … Again, I think that just like Congress getting special treatment in the Affordable Care Act, it’s wrong. We shouldn’t have any benefits that the general public doesn’t have,” Grimm said.
On Tuesday, Rep. Peter King, Republican from Long Island, had tough talk for members of his own party during the WCBS 880 Eye On Politics segment.
“It’s the Republicans’ fault for threatening to shut the government down unless Obamacare is defunded, but more and more the president has to assume responsibility for not getting engaged. He is the president. It is his government and no matter who initiated this, it’s important for him to get involved,” Rep. King told WCBS 880′s Steve Scott.
King also blasted the extreme wing of the Republican party for creating a distraction during budget talks.
“Republicans were wrong,” to use the health care law as a bargaining chip in the negotiations, said King.
“I’m totally opposed to Obamacare but if we’re going to change it, you repeal it the same way that you enacted it,” said King. “Unfortunately, too many people in my party listened to [Sen.] Ted Cruz, who was a total fraud on this from the start.”
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 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it would close its offices at 1:30 p.m. Other agencies, such as the Labor Department, expect most employees to be gone by mid-day, but did not set a specific time.
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.
Once they head home, furloughed employees are under strict orders not to do any work.
The health care law itself was unaffected as enrollment opened Tuesday for millions of people shopping for medical insurance.
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, 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.
Boehner said he didn’t want a government shutdown, but added the health care law “is having a devastating impact. — Something has to be done.”
“This shutdown is about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it,” said Obama on Tuesday. “It’s all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act. This more than anything else seems to be what the Republican party stands for these days.”
The president also noted that because of the way funding has been set up for the Affordable Care Act, it is not impacted by the government shutdown.
He also touted the health insurance program, saying it’ll have positive impacts across several areas.
“Most uninsured Americans will find that they can get covered for $100 or less,” said Obama.
President Obama said a statistic highlighted the benefits of the health care law – that those diagnosed with cancer are 70 percent more likely to live another five years if they have health insurance.
“We’re finally addressing the biggest drivers of our long-term deficits,” said the president. “The last three years since I signed the Affordable Care Act into law are the three slowest rates of health spending growth on record. And contrary to Republican claims, this law hasn’t destroyed our economy.”
It wasn’t clear how long the standoff would last, but it appeared that Obama and Reid had the upper hand.
“We can’t win,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., adding that “sooner or later” the House would have to agree to Democrats’ demands for a simple, straightforward funding bill reopening the government.
The order directing federal agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations” was issued by White House Budget Director Sylvia Burwell shortly before midnight Monday.
Around the same time, Obama appeared in a video message assuring members of the military they’ll be paid under a law he just signed and telling civilian Defense Department employees that “you and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we’re seeing in Congress.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that Pentagon lawyers are trying to determine ways for some of the Defense Department’s 400,000 furloughed civilians to continue working.
He bemoaned the standoff, telling reporters traveling with him in South Korea, “It does have an effect on our relationships around the world and it cuts straight to the obvious question: Can you rely on the United States as a reliable partner to fulfill its commitments to its allies?”
The underlying spending bill would fund the government through Nov. 15 if the Senate gets its way or until Dec. 15 if the House does.
Until now, such bills have been routinely passed with bipartisan support, ever since a pair of shutdowns 17 years ago engineered by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich severely damaged Republican election prospects and revived then-President Bill Clinton’s political standing.
Boehner had sought to avoid the shutdown and engineer passage of a “clean” temporary spending bill for averting a government shutdown.
This time tea party activists mobilized by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, mounted a campaign to seize the must-do measure in an effort to derail Obamacare. GOP leaders voiced reservations and many Republican lawmakers predicted it wouldn’t work. Some even labeled it “stupid.”
But the success of Cruz and other tea party-endorsed conservatives who upset establishment GOP candidates in 2010 and 2012 primaries was a lesson learned for many Republican lawmakers going into next year’s election.
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