By Josh Lederman
CLAYCOMO, Mo. — President Barack Obama furiously responded Friday to congressional budget battles that could threaten a partial government shutdown, accusing Republicans voting against his health care law of focusing on politics and “holding the whole country hostage.”
Locked in a stalemate with lawmakers over spending and borrowing with less than two weeks until the start of the new budget year, the president returned to a fiery campaign mode to take his critics to task. He said Republicans must stop focusing on defunding his health care law, pass a budget and raise the nation’s borrowing limit to head off a first-ever default on the nation’s debt.
“We’re not some banana republic. This isn’t some deadbeat nation,” Obama said before workers on a sprawling auto plant floor in Missouri. “We don’t run out on our tab. We’re the world’s bedrock investment. The entire world looks to us to make sure the world economy is stable. We can’t just not pay our bills. And even threating something like that is the height of irresponsibility.”
Congress faces two financial deadlines in the coming weeks. Funding for the government is set to run out at the end of September, and the government will reach the limits of its borrowing authority a few weeks later.
The Republican-led House passed a bill Friday to keep the government running while gutting funding for Obama’s health care law.
The health care provision is sure to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and Obama said he would veto it if it didn’t, setting up a showdown that could lead to a partial government shutdown.
“Our message to the United State Senate is real simple,” House Speaker John Boehner declared after the vote. “The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare.”
Obama returned the combative tone soon after, accusing Republicans of threatening to “blow the whole thing up” because they couldn’t get their way on health care. He ridiculed them for the more than 40 votes they’ve taken to repeal his health care proposal as a waste of time and energy.
“Now they’ve gone beyond just holding Congress hostage. They’re holding the whole country hostage,” with the key deadlines looming, Obama said.
Obama was speaking at a Ford Motor Co. stamping plant near Kansas City, and he told the workers that the shutdown will hurt Americans like them. He laid out a menacing list of consequences if Congress fails to act: Delayed paychecks for military workers, hundreds of thousands of Americans prevented from going to work, small businesses whose loans won’t go through.
“Somebody wanting to buy an F-150 will have to pay much higher interest rates eventually, which means you will sell less cars,” he said. “That’s just one example of how profoundly destructive this could be. This is not some abstract thing.”
He continued with the automotive metaphor to explain the impact of the failure to raise the debt limit, comparing it to a driver who gets a new F-150 on a payment plan.
“I can’t just say, you know, I’m not going to make my car payment this month. That’s what Congress is threatening to do, just saying, ‘I’m not going to pay the bills.’ There are consequences to that,” Obama said.