In a speech at FEMA headquarters this Monday, President Barack Obama addressed the government shutdown, characterizing the acknowledged strategy of Republicans to use the government shutdown to force concessions on health care as the equivalent of taking the nation ransom. He said that citizens aren’t allowed to use this strategy with coworkers and banks, and that we should not expect it of Washington as well, stressing that voters chose the Affordable Health Care in the last presidential election. Then he challenged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to let Congress put it to the vote.
“If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it,” he said. “Let the bill go to the floor and let’s see what happens. Just vote. Let every member of Congress vote their conscience and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down.”
“My suspicion is, my very strong suspicion is, there are enough votes there, and the reason Speaker Boehner hasn’t called a vote on it is because he doesn’t apparently want to see the government shutdown end at the moment unless he’s able to extract concessions that don’t have anything to do with budget,” Obama said.
Obama characterized the Republican strategy in criminal terms, though he said “I am happy to talk with him and other Republicans about anything. I also told him that having such a conversation, talks, negotiations, shouldn’t require hanging the threats of a government shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of the American people.”
“No American president would deal with a foreign leader like this,” he said. “We shouldn’t be dealing this way here in Washington.”
Saying you are willing to have a conversation, while calling your opponent in spirit a criminal, may seem a bit two-faced, but Obama nevertheless seemed confident that there were enough Republicans – at least 22 – who would vote for a “clean” bill to end the government shutdown, meaning a bill that in no way hamstringed Obamacare.
“As reckless as a government shutdown is, the economic shutdown caused by America defaulting would be dramatically worse,” he said.
“Even though people can see and feel the effects of the government shutdown, there are still some people out there who don’t believe default is a real thing.”
When a vote will be established, and whether the Democrats would take it, is perhaps something Boehner has considered; but as for the rest of the nation, they are wondering whether holding to one’s principles, as the Republicans claim to be doing, should come at a cost to other people – the whole nation. Personal sacrifice is noble, but sacrificing others for your principles is dangerous territory.