It has come down to this: At midnight the federal government will shut down unless House Republicans reverse their insistence that Obamacare be delayed for a year before they pass a budget to keep the government running.
Senate Democrats—and even, quietly, some Senate Republicans—mercilessly bashed their House colleagues for their irrational stubbornness, while President Obama continued to ridicule the GOP for their bullheaded willingness to send the country and the economy hurtling over a cliff. The shenanigans in Washington over Obamacare come just one day before Americans will begin signing up for the health care law.
If the House Republicans don’t budge, large sections of the federal government would close, hundreds of thousands of workers would be furloughed without pay, and millions more would be asked to work for no pay.
“The closer we get, the more desperate they get,” Obama said on Thursday during a speech at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md. “The Republican Party has just spun itself up around this issue. And the fact is, the Republicans’ biggest fear at this point is not that the Affordable Care Act will fail. What they’re worried about is it’s going to succeed.”
The president mocked the exaggerated claims made by Republicans about the Affordable Care Act, such as New Hampshire state Rep. Bill O’Brien’s declaration in August that it is “a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.”
The mostly black audience at the college reacted with gasps and boos.
“Think about that. Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back,” Obama said. “I mean, these are quotes. I’m not making this stuff up. All this would be funny if it wasn’t so crazy.”
This would be the first government shutdown in 17 years. The last time it happened, lasting for a total of 28 days in late 1995 and early 1996, many observers said it led to President Clinton’s re-election in 1996 and caused the loss of 8 Republican seats in the House, though they retained their majority.
“Unlock those doors, I say to Harry Reid,” said Rep. Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican who stood on the steps of the empty Senate on Sunday with a dozen of her House colleagues. “Come out and do your job.”
But Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine joined others in her party who have criticized House Republicans and the Tea Party wing forcing the issue, saying on Sunday that an effort to link the health care amendments to the budget was “a strategy that cannot possibly work.”
Representative Pat Tiberi, an Ohio Republican and close ally of House Speaker John Boehner, said House Republicans believe they have already compromised by backing away from their demand that the health care law be defunded, now pushing for it to be delayed for a year.
Some Republicans believe the public would not automatically blame them for a shutdown, pointing out that Obama played golf on Sunday and Reid kept the Senate closed.
Boehner (R-Ohio) called Reid’s move “an act of breathtaking arrogance.”
But Reid struck back, calling his Republican colleagues “anarchists” and “rumps” and describing them as the “weird caucus.”