President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Government Shutdown

President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Government Shutdown


President Obama:
Good morning, everybody. At midnight last night,
for the first time in 17 years, Republicans in Congress
chose to shut down the federal government. Let me be more specific:
One faction, of one party, in one house of Congress,
in one branch of government, shut down major parts
of the government — all because they
didn’t like one law. This Republican shutdown
did not have to happen. But I want every American
to understand why it did happen. Republicans in the House
of Representatives refused to fund the government unless
we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act. They’ve shut down the government
over an ideological crusade to deny affordable
health insurance to millions of Americans. In other words, they demanded
ransom just for doing their job. And many representatives,
including an increasing number of Republicans, have made it
clear that had they been allowed by Speaker Boehner to take
a simple up or down vote on keeping the government open,
with no partisan strings attached, enough votes from
both parties would have kept the American people’s government
open and operating. We may not know the full impact
of this Republican shutdown for some time. It will depend on
how long it lasts. But we do know
a couple of things. We know that the last time
Republicans shut down the government in 1996,
it hurt our economy. And unlike 1996,
our economy is still recovering from the worst recession
in generations. We know that certain services
and benefits that America’s seniors and veterans
and business owners depend on must be put on hold. Certain offices, along with every national park
and monument, must be closed. And while last night,
I signed legislation to make sure our 1.4 million
active-duty military are paid through the shutdown, hundreds of thousands
of civilian workers — many still on the job,
many forced to stay home — aren’t being paid, even if they have
families to support and local businesses
that rely on them. And we know that the longer
this shutdown continues, the worse the effects will be. More families will be hurt. More businesses will be harmed. So, once again,
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. This is only going to happen
when Republicans realize they don’t get to
hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands. As I’ve said repeatedly,
I am prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to do the things
we need to do to grow the
economy and create jobs, and get our fiscal house
in order over the long run. Although I should add this
shutdown isn’t about deficits, or spending, or budgets. After all,
our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in 50 years. We’ve cut them in half
since I took office. In fact, many of the demands
the Republicans are now making would actually
raise our deficits. No, this shutdown
is not about deficits, it’s not about budgets. This shutdown is about
rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance
to folks who don’t have it. 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. I know it’s strange that one
party would make keeping people uninsured the centerpiece
of their agenda, but that apparently
is what it is. And of course, what’s stranger
still is that shutting down our government doesn’t
accomplish their stated goal. The Affordable Care Act is
a law that passed the House; it passed the Senate. The Supreme Court
ruled it constitutional. It was a central issue
in last year’s election. It is settled, and
it is here to stay. And because of its
funding sources, it’s not impacted
by a government shutdown. And these Americans are
here with me today because, even though
the government is closed, a big part
of the Affordable Care Act is now open for business. And for them,
and millions like them, this is a historic
day for a good reason. It’s been a long time
coming, but today, Americans who have been forced
to go without insurance can now visit healthcare.gov and enroll
in affordable new plans that offer quality coverage. That starts today. And people will have
six months to sign up. So over the next six months, people are going
to have the opportunity — in many cases, for the
first time in their lives — to get affordable coverage
that they desperately need. Now, of course, if you’re one
of the 85 percent of Americans who already have
health insurance, you don’t need to do a thing. You’re already benefiting from
new benefits and protections that have been in place
for some time under this law. But for the
15 percent of Americans who don’t have health insurance, this opportunity
is life-changing. Let me just tell
folks a few stories that are represented here today. A few years ago, Amanda Barrett
left her job in New York to take care of her parents. And for a while,
she had temporary insurance that covered her
multiple sclerosis. But when it expired, many insurers wouldn’t
cover her because of her MS. And she ended up
paying $1,200 a month. That’s nowhere near affordable. So starting today, she can
get covered for much less, because today’s new plan can’t
use your medical history to charge you more
than anybody else. Sky-high premiums
once forced Nancy Beigel to choose between
paying her rent or paying for health insurance. She’s been uninsured ever since. So she pays all of her
medical bills out of pocket, puts some on her credit card,
making them even harder to pay. Nancy says,
“They talk about those who fall through the cracks. I fell through
the cracks 10 years ago and I’ve been stuck
there ever since.” Well, starting today,
Nancy can get covered just like everybody else. Trinace Edwards was laid off
from her job a year ago today. Six months ago, she was
diagnosed with a brain tumor. She couldn’t afford insurance
on the individual market, so she hasn’t
received treatment yet. Her daughter Lenace, a student
at the University of Maryland, is considering
dropping out of school to help pay her mom’s bills. Well, starting today, thanks
to the Affordable Care Act, Trinace can get covered
without forcing her daughter to give up on her dreams. So if these stories of
hardworking Americans sound familiar to you,
well, starting today, you and your friends and
your family and your coworkers can get covered, too. Just visit healthcare.gov, and there you can compare
insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop
for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon. You enter some
basic information, you’ll be presented
with a list of quality, affordable plans that
are available in your area, with clear descriptions
of what each plan covers, and what it will cost. You’ll find more choices,
more competition, and in many cases,
lower prices — most uninsured Americans will
find that they can get covered for $100 or less. And you don’t have to
take my word for it. Go on the website,
healthcare.gov, check it out for yourself. And then show it to
your family and your friends and help them get covered, just like mayors and
churches and community groups and companies are
already fanning out to do across the country. And there’s a hotline where
you can apply over the phone and get help
with the application, or just get questions that you
have answered by real people, in 150 different languages. So let me give you that number. The number is 1-800-318-2596 — 1-800-318-2596. Check out healthcare.gov. Call that number. Show your family
and friends how to use it. And we can get America
covered, once and for all, so that the struggles that these
folks have gone through and millions around the country
have gone through for years finally get addressed. And let me just remind people why I think this
is so important. I heard a striking
statistic yesterday — if you get cancer, you are 70 percent more likely
to live another five years if you have insurance
than if you don’t. Think about that. That is what it means
to have health insurance. Set aside the issues
of security and finances and how you’re impacted by that, the stress involved in
not knowing whether or not you’re going
to have health care. This is life-or-death stuff. Tens of thousands
of Americans die each year just because they don’t
have health insurance. Millions more live with the fear that they’ll go broke
if they get sick. And today,
we begin to free millions of our fellow Americans
from that fear. Already, millions of young
adults have been able to stay on their parents’
plans until they turn 26. Millions of seniors already
have gotten a discount on their prescription medicines. Already millions of families
have actually received rebates from insurance companies
that didn’t spend enough on their health care. So this law means more
choice, more competition, lower costs for
millions of Americans. And this law doesn’t
just mean economic security for our families. It means we’re finally
addressing the biggest drivers of our long-term deficits. It means a stronger economy. Remember most Republicans
have made a whole bunch of predictions about this
law that haven’t come true. There are no “death panels.” Costs haven’t skyrocketed; they’re growing at
the slowest rate in 50 years. 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. Over the past three
and a half years, our businesses have created
7.5 million new jobs. Just today, we learned that our
manufacturers are growing at the fastest rate
in two and a half years. They have factored in
the Affordable Care Act. They don’t think it’s a problem. What’s weighing on the economy
is not the Affordable Care Act, but the constant series of
crises and the unwillingness to pass a reasonable budget by a
faction of the Republican Party. Now, like every new law,
every new product rollout, there are going to be some
glitches in the signup process along the way that we will fix. I’ve been saying
this from the start. For example, we found out that there have been
times this morning where the site has been
running more slowly than it normally will. The reason is because more
than one million people visited healthcare.gov
before 7:00 in the morning. To put that in context, there
were five times more users in the marketplace this morning
than have ever been on Medicare.gov at one time. That gives you a sense of how
important this is to millions of Americans around the country,
and that’s a good thing. And we’re going to be speeding
things up in the next few hours to handle all this
demand that exceeds anything that we had expected. Consider that just
a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new
mobile operating system. And within days, they found
a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody
suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads — or threatening to shut down
the company if they didn’t. That’s not how we
do things in America. We don’t actively
root for failure. We get to work, we make things
happen, we make them better, we keep going. So in that context,
I’ll work with anybody who’s got a serious idea to make the
Affordable Care Act work better. I’ve said that repeatedly. But as long as I am President,
I will not give in to reckless demands by
some in the Republican Party to deny affordable
health insurance to millions of
hardworking Americans. I want Republicans in Congress
to know these are the Americans you’d hurt if you were
allowed to dismantle this law. Americans like Amanda,
Nancy, and Trinace, who now finally have the
opportunity for basic security and peace of mind of health
care just like everybody else — including members of Congress. The notion that you’d make
a condition for reopening the government that
I make sure these folks don’t have health care — that doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense. Now, let me make one closing
point: This Republican shutdown threatens our economy at a time
when millions of Americans are still looking for work, and businesses are starting
to get some traction. So the timing is not good. Of course, a lot of the
Republicans in the House ran for office two years ago promising to shut
down the government, and so, apparently,
they’ve now gotten their wish. But as I’ve said before, the
irony that the House Republicans have to contend with is
they’ve shut down a whole bunch of parts of the government,
but the Affordable Care Act is still open for business. And this may be why you’ve got
many Republican governors and senators and even a growing
number of reasonable Republican congressmen who are telling the
extreme right of their party to knock it off,
pass a budget, move on. And I want to underscore the
fact that Congress doesn’t just have to end this shutdown
and reopen the government — Congress generally has to
stop governing by crisis. They have to break this habit. It is a drag on the economy. It is not worthy
of this country. For example, one of the most
important things Congress has to do in the
next couple weeks is to raise what’s called the debt ceiling. And it’s important to
understand what this is. This is a routine vote. Congress has taken
this vote 45 times to raise the debt ceiling
since Ronald Reagan took office. It does not cost
taxpayers a single dime. It does not grow our
deficits by a single dime. It does not authorize anybody to
spend any new money whatsoever. All it does is
authorize the Treasury to pay the bills on what Congress
has already spent. Think about that. If you buy a car
and you’ve got a car note, you do not save money
by not paying your car note. You’re just a deadbeat. If you buy a house,
you don’t save money by not authorizing yourself
to pay the mortgage. You’re just going to be
foreclosed on your home. That’s what this is about. It is routine. It is what they’re
supposed to do. This is not a concession to me. It is not some demand that’s
unreasonable that I’m making. This is what Congress
is supposed to do as a routine matter. And they shouldn’t wait until
the last minute to do it. The last time
Republicans even threatened this course of action — many of you remember,
back in 2011 — our economy staggered, our credit rating was
downgraded for the first time. If they go through with it this
time and force the United States to default on its obligations
for the first time in history, it would be far more dangerous
than a government shutdown — as bad as a shutdown is. It would be an
economic shutdown. So I’ll speak more on
this in the coming days, but let me repeat:
I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay bills it’s
already racked up. I’m not going to allow
anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America
through the mud just to refight
a settled election or extract ideological demands. Nobody gets to hurt
our economy and millions of hardworking families
over a law you don’t like. There are a whole
bunch of things that I’d like to see
passed through Congress that the House Republicans
haven’t passed yet, and I’m not out there
saying, well, I’m not — I’m going to let America
default unless Congress does something that
they don’t want to do. That’s not how adults operate. Certainly that’s not how
our government should operate. And that’s true whether there’s
a Democrat in this office or a Republican in this office. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Democratic
House of Representatives or a Republican-controlled
House of Representatives — there are certain rules
that everybody abides by because we don’t want
to hurt other people just because we have
a political disagreement. So my basic message to Congress
is this: Pass a budget. End the government shutdown. Pay your bills. Prevent an economic shutdown. Don’t wait. Don’t delay. Don’t put our economy or our
people through this any longer. I am more than happy
to work with them on all kinds of issues. I want to get back to work
on the things that the American people sent us
here to work on — creating new jobs, new growth, new security for
our middle class. We’re better than this. Certainly the American people
are a lot better than this. And I believe that what
we’ve accomplished for Amanda, and Nancy, and Trinace, and tens of millions
of their fellow citizens – on this day proves that
even when the odds are long and the obstacles are many, we are and always
will be a country that can do great
things together. Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. Thank you, all of you, for the
great work that you’re doing. And thank you,
Kathleen Sebelius, for the outstanding work
that she’s doing making sure that millions of Americans
can get health insurance. Thank you.

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