President Obama on Saturday admonished Republicans who have threatened to shut down the government if the next federal budget does not strip funding for the president's signature healthcare law, saying in his weekly address that "health insurance isn't something to play politics with."
Last month, some 60 House Republicans sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) urging leadership to remove funding for the Affordable Care Act in its next continuing resolution, while Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has spearheaded a similar push in the Senate.
But some GOP leaders — including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — have warned that Republicans won't be able to stop implementation of the law through the budgetary process. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told The Associated Press the threatened shutdown was the "dumbest idea" he'd ever heard.
Obama also seized on a report in The Hill that some Republican lawmakers have said they will not assist constituents in navigating the law and obtaining benefits.
"Some even say that if you call their office with questions about the law, they’ll refuse to help," Obama said. "Call me old-fashioned, but that’s lousy constituent service. And it’s not what you deserve."
The insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act are set to go online Oct. 1, ahead of the 2014 requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance. But that looming deadline has put intensified focus on the upcoming budget process. Congress needs to strike a deal before the fiscal year runs out on Sept. 30, but will only have nine legislative days to do so after returning from its August recess.
But the president, defensive of his signature first-term accomplishment, pledged Saturday " to keep doing everything in my power to make sure this law works as it’s supposed to."
"Your health insurance isn’t something to play politics with," he added. "Our economy isn’t something to play politics with. This isn’t a game. This is about the economic security of millions of families."