President Obama, who once hoped to mark Tuesday as the day when critical elements of his Affordable Care Act took effect, instead used part of his time at a public event in the White House Rose Garden to lob rhetorical grenades at the Republicans for what he described as their intransigence and dereliction of duty.
Obama said defiantly that his health-care law, which is the sole reason the government is partly shuttered and the political system in the capital paralyzed, is “here to stay,” no matter what Republicans think of it or try to do to it. He appeared more peeved than outright angry about the state of things.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats traded accusations for Congress’s failure to find a way to fund the government for two more months — an act that, even if it had been done, would hardly be something to crow about. Such limited ambitions — asking lawmakers in essence to punt for 60 or so more days, when another round of squabbling presumably would occur — underscore the breakdown of the system.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), in a USA Today op-ed, accused Obama of a “scorched-Earth policy of refusing to negotiate” over health care, spending or entitlement reform and said that was why the government ended up closed.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) sat with other House Republicans named to a budget conference committee that had been rejected out of hand by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) just before the shutdown began.
Cantor condemned the Democrats for refusing even to discuss what he said were repeated efforts by his party to offer different formulas to break the stalemate. The reality, of course, given the raw numbers in the House and the Senate, is that in trying to use a short-term funding bill to stop or delay Obamacare, the Republicans ended up stopping the government.
Reid continued to insist that Senate Democrats would never yield until the Republicans abandoned their strings-attached strategy and sent him a clean bill to fund the government. Reid’s dismissals of the Republican tactics grow more flagrant and inflammatory by the day, which is not likely to serve Democrats well in the long run.
Democrats had hoped that Republicans would feel heat the closer they came to missing the deadline to keep the government running. If anything, calls for Republicans to stay the course were even louder on Tuesday than they were on Monday.