By Peter Schroeder - 10/01/13 02:21 PM EDT
President Obama told federal employees Tuesday they don't deserve to be treated as a "punching bag" in the fight over government spending.
In a letter sent to the federal workforce, the president noted that federal workers have had to grapple with three years of pay freezes, broad sequester cuts and now a government shutdown.
"None of this is fair to you," he wrote. "And should it continue, it will make it more difficult to keep attracting the kind of driven, patriotic, idealistic Americans to public service that our citizens deserve and that our system of self-government demands.
"This shutdown was completely preventable. It should not have happened," he wrote. "And the House of Representatives can end it as soon as it follows the Senate's lead, and funds your work in the United States Government without trying to attach highly controversial and partisan measures in the process."
"It is your efforts that will help this country meet the great challenge of our time — rebuilding an economy where all who work hard can get ahead."
The letter came hours after the federal government shut down for the first time in 17 years, as the two parties sparred over contentious efforts to slow or dismantle ObamaCare as part of a measure keeping the government funded.
House Republicans repeatedly sent measures to the Democrat-controlled Senate containing ObamaCare attacks, which were repeatedly stripped out by the Senate and sent back.
The president sent a video message to Defense workers early Tuesday morning, minutes after the government shut down, saying they "deserved better" than Washington dysfunction. He emphasized that military members would "have what you need to succeed in your missions," noting that he also signed a measure into law that would ensure military personnel will still be paid during the shutdown.
In a separate statement, the American Federal of Government Employees, the labor union representing much of federal workforce, lamented the shutdown, also pinning blame on the House.
"The moment we have been dreading has arrived," said National President J. David Cox, "It's anybody's guess what their real goals may be: Do they enjoy creating chaos?"
Cox added that the union backed the president during the standoff and urged him to resist trimming benefits for federal workers as part of a compromise.