By Amie Parnes - 10/01/13 05:59 PM EDT
President Obama slammed House Republicans on Tuesday, accusing them of shutting down the government over an “ideological crusade” on healthcare.
Speaking to reporters in the Rose Garden, an irate Obama placed blame squarely on congressional Republicans and said the shutdown did not have to happen.
Obama also maintained that he would “not give in to reckless demands” from House Republicans to repeal or delay the Affordable Care Act.
“They don’t get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands,” Obama said.
He characterized the shutdown as boiling down to Republicans efforts to roll back ObamaCare.
“This more than anything else seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days,” Obama said.
“I know it’s strange that one party would make keeping people uninsured the centerpiece of their agenda but that apparently is what it is. And of course what’s stranger still is that shutting down our government doesn’t accomplish their stated goal.”
Contrary to Republican beliefs, Obama said, the healthcare law “hasn’t destroyed our economy.”
Obama also reiterated that he would not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling. The Treasury Department has said Congress must lift the borrowing limit by Oct. 17.
“Let me repeat: I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay bills its already racked up,” Obama said. “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.”
Republicans on Tuesday continued to hammer Obama for not negotiating with them. But polls finding that majorities oppose tying healthcare funding to keeping the government operating have bolstered White House confidence.
Obama’s comments came after he met with people the White House says will benefit from new insurance marketplaces, which began on Tuesday as a result of the Affordable Care Act. During his statement, Obama called the launch “historic” and said it had been “a long time coming.”
“This is life or death stuff,” Obama said of the necessity of a healthcare law. “Tens of thousands of Americans die each year just because they don’t have health insurance. Millions more live with the fear that they’ll go broke if they get sick. And today we begin to free millions of our fellow Americans from that fear.”
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday hasn’t been smooth, with reports of long waits and a string of computer glitches.
White House aides took to Twitter to blame the problems on high demand, and to trumpet the fact that more than 1 million people visited healthcare.gov, the website where Americans can sign up for healthcare insurance.
Obama vowed to fix the problems that showed up Tuesday.