Obama to hammer home shutdown message at construction company

President Obama will hold a series of events in the coming days to highlight the consequences of the government shutdown.

The events will hammer home the White House’s argument that it is Republicans who are preventing the government from reopening, White House aides say. They will also portray Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as unwilling to buck a “faction” of the Republican caucus.

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On Thursday, the president will appear at a local construction company that has benefited from federal loans. While there, he will highlight the real-world consequences of a shutdown, while casting blame for the crisis at the feet of House leadership.

The speech will follow a meeting Wednesday between Obama and top corporate executives, intended to force the hand of Republicans and pressure them to come to the table with a deal.

The meeting will remind the business leaders of the “consequences of the mere flirtation of default,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Obama appeared in the Rose Garden, using the bully pulpit to underscore the fact that he would not compromise on the current budget fight or the upcoming debt-ceiling clash, which White House officials say would be catastrophic to the economy.

“I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay bills it’s already racked up,” Obama told reporters in a 20-minute statement. “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.”

The president’s apparent resoluteness came even as the White House grappled with the practical consequences of a shutdown.

In the White House press office, officials normally devoted to spinning the president’s message picked up some of the grunt work — like shepherding reporters across the White House grounds and placing the president’s remarks on his podium — usually reserved for now-furloughed low-level staffers. 

The White House’s Twitter feed even promoted the wrong time for Obama’s remarks, more indication of the behind-the-scenes strain.

Most of the White House’s 438-member staff was deemed nonessential and sent home by midday, with only 129 staying at work. In the White House residence, only 15 of the 90 staffers were not furloughed.

The administration wouldn’t comment on who specifically was allowed to continue working, and who was sent home. But both White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and photographer Pete Souza could be observed through the windows of the Oval Office Tuesday afternoon.

The shutdown also threatened to throw a wrench in the president’s planned departure for an economic summit in Asia this weekend. Former President Clinton scrapped a trip to Japan during the 1995 shutdown, instead dispatching then-Vice President Al Gore. 

Carney would only say that the trip remained on the president’s schedule, dodging questions about whether it was even logistically possible for Obama to travel amid a shutdown.

Despite the squeeze on resources, senior administration officials say the president has no intention to budge on this issue — or on the fight over the debt ceiling.

“It would set a really bad precedent,” one former senior administration official said. “And it would be a mistake on both fronts.”

There is a concern among White House officials that if Democrats accept a continuing resolution that includes concessions to the Tea Party, those House members would feel even more emboldened before fights over the debt ceiling or a funding bill that covers the entire year. 

The White House is also betting that House Republicans will feel pressured to give in over the course of the next few days, according to the former administration official. 

A spokesman for the president on Tuesday pointed to a pair of polls showing that voters are opposed to the idea of shutting down the government to oppose ObamaCare.