Obama: GOP holding ‘entire economy hostage’

October 1, 2013

Describing the current budget impasse as a "Republican shutdown," President Obama delivered an impassioned defense of the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday afternoon while lambasting the GOP for bringing the federal government's operations to a halt.

Speaking in the Rose Garden in front of a group of consumers who will be eligible, starting today, to sign up for insurance under the law better known as Obamacare, the president said a faction within the House GOP has "shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job."

"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," he added, with disdain in his voice.

Americans will only be able to return to work, Obama said, "when Republicans realize they don't get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands."

The afternoon event aimed to highlight the stories of Americans who had been denied affordable insurance in the past, but would now be able to access it through state and federal marketplaces. Obama described how some of the individuals with him had not been able to buy insurance because of preexisting conditions or high premiums, such as a woman with multiple sclerosis who had to pay $1,200 a month for health insurance, and a woman whose daughter was considering dropping out of the University of Maryland because her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor six months after being laid off from her job.

"The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House, that passed the Senate, the Supreme Court ruled constitutional. It was a central issue in last year's election. It is settled, and it is here to stay," Obama said, adding that a recent study showed people diagnosed with cancer are 70 percent more likely to live another five years if they have insurance.

"This is life-or-death stuff. 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," he said. "And today we begin to free millions of our fellow Americans from that fear."

Obama went so far as to call congressional Republicans childish for refusing to fund government operations and raise the debt ceiling unless he delayed implementation of the health care law.

"I'm not going to allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to re-fight a settled election or extract ideological demands. Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hardworking families over a law you don't like," he said. "That's not how adults operate. Certainly, that's not how our government should operate."

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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Anne Bartlett · October 1, 2013