Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, September 30, 2013

President's Remarks Today on the Shutdown

Five years ago right now, our economy was in meltdown. Today, our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs over the past three and a half years. The housing market is healing and our deficits are falling fast. The idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility.

And it doesn’t have to happen. Let me repeat this: It does not have to happen. All of this is entirely preventable if the House chooses to do what the Senate has already done -- and that’s the simple act of funding our government without making extraneous and controversial demands in the process, the same way other Congresses have for more than 200 years.

Unfortunately, right now House Republicans continue to tie funding of the government to ideological demands like limiting a woman’s access to contraception, or delaying the Affordable Care Act, all to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party.

So let me be clear about this. An important part of the Affordable Care Act takes effect tomorrow no matter what Congress decides to do today. The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down. This is a law that passed both houses of Congress; a law that bears my signature; a law that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional; a law that voters chose not to repeal last November; a law that is already providing benefits to millions of Americans in the form of young people staying on their parents’ plan until they’re 26, seniors getting cheaper prescription drugs, making sure that insurance companies aren't imposing lifetime limits when you already have health insurance, providing rebates for consumers when insurance companies are spending too much money on overhead instead of health care. Those things are already happening.

Starting tomorrow, tens of millions of Americans will be able to visit to shop for affordable health care coverage. So Americans who’ve lived for years in some cases with the fear that one illness could send them into bankruptcy, Americans who’ve been priced out of the market just because they’ve been sick once, they’ll finally be able to afford coverage -- quality coverage -- many of them for the first time in their lives.

Some of them may be sick as we speak. And this is their best opportunity to get some security and some relief. Tens of thousands of Americans die every single year because they don’t have access to affordable health care. Despite this, Republicans have said that if we lock these Americans out of affordable health care for one more year -- if we sacrifice the health care of millions of Americans -- then they’ll fund the government for a couple more months. Does anybody truly believe that we won’t have this fight again in a couple more months? Even at Christmas?

So here’s the bottom line: I’m always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better, to make sure our government works better. I’m always willing to work with anyone to grow our economy faster, or to create new jobs faster, to get our fiscal house in order for the long run. I’ve demonstrated this time and time again, oftentimes to the consternation of my own party.

But one faction of one party, in one house of Congress, in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election.

Keeping the people’s government open is not a concession to me. Keeping vital services running and hundreds of thousands of Americans on the job is not something you “give” to the other side. It’s our basic responsibility. It’s something that we’re doing for our military, and our businesses, and our economy, and all the hardworking people out there -- the person working for the Agricultural Department out in some rural community who’s out there helping some farmers make sure that they’re making some modest profit for all the hard work they’re putting in. They’re the person working for HUD who’s helping somebody buy a house for the first time. They’re somebody in a VA office who’s counseling one of our vets who’s got PTSD.

That’s who we’re here to serve. That’s why we’re supposed to be carrying out these responsibilities. It’s why we should be avoiding these kinds of constant brinksmanship. It’s something that we do in the ordinary process of this extraordinary system of government that we have. 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.

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