“This Republican shutdown did not have to happen. I want every American to understand why it did happen,” the president said from the Rose Garden, joined by Americans he insisted would benefit from Obamacare. “Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the federal government unless we defunded or dismantled Obamacare.”
The president reminded his GOP rivals that open enrollment in Obamacare went on as planned Tuesday despite the shutdown.
But the White House had hoped to focus exclusively on the merits of Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
“I urge House Republicans to reopen the government,” Obama said, accusing GOP lawmakers of demanding a “ransom just for doing their job.”
For their part, Republicans remain unmoved by the president’s appeals, saying the White House is ignoring public frustration with Obamacare and a soaring national debt.
While Republicans succeeded in taking attention away from Obamacare, they risk coming off as overly rigid and unwilling to compromise in the face of a government shutdown.
The president is also walking a delicate line.
Though Obamacare exchanges began Tuesday, he has much work remaining to bolster support for his health law. Many Americans remain wary of how Obamacare works and how it will impact their premiums.
As Obama championed the law, government officials weren't fully prepared for the onslaught of Americans trying to sign up for the exchanges.
There were numerous reports Tuesday of computer networks not being equipped to facilitate the exchanges.
The president insisted from the Rose Garden that his administration would work through the “glitches.”
“I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads,” Obama said, comparing the setbacks with problems encountered by major American companies launching a new product.
Democratic leaders also brushed off the hiccups, instead focusing on the high-volume traffic for the online marketplaces.
"Republicans predicted the end of the world as we know it during the mission to create Medicare and Social Security, just as they're doing now in our quest to enact Obamacare," Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a rally Tuesday afternoon. "Why don't they get a life and figure out something else they'd like to mess with?"
After failing to reach a funding compromise by midnight Tuesday, Republican and Democratic lawmakers still appear no closer to a deal. It’s a squabble likely to carry over into another brewing fight about the nation’s borrowing limit — the federal government will reach the debt ceiling Oct. 17.
Obama warned Republicans that he would not negotiate around the debt ceiling, either.
“It is a drag on the economy,” Obama said of GOP tactics. “It is not worthy of this country.”