President Obama sent his regrets via video Wednesday evening to the annual Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gala and implored House Republicans to work with Democrats to reopen the federal government.
"I'm having to cancel some public appearances," Obama explained at the beginning of a video message aired at the black-tie gala.
Obama explained that most of the government remains shuttered, putting hundreds of thousands of federal employees out of jobs and leading to the cessation of government services.
"That's why I would encourage House Republicans to reopen the federal government," he said -- a line that earned loud applause.
Later, Obama told the crowd "We need to finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system," a change he said that would be "important for our economy and national security."
Finally, Obama noted that "Even though the government is closed, the Affordable Care Act is now open for business."
That line earned the president his largest round of applause.
Earlier in the evening, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also noted the start of the new health-care law and touted the release of a new House Democratic measure to overhaul the nation's immigration system. Despite mentioning that it has more than 100 Democratic co-sponsors, Pelosi made no public assurance that the legislation would ever be considered or passed by the GOP-controlled House.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama were scheduled to attend the banquet held at the Washington Convention Center, but organizers announced their change in plans Tuesday afternoon. The White House announced early Wednesday that Obama will curtail a planned trip to four Asian countries, but still plans to attend a key Asian security and economic conference.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus annual meetings this week noted the election of a record-size freshman class -- eight House Democrats elected from California, Florida, Texas and New Mexico.
Sensitive to being photographed in tuxedos in the midst of the shutdown, aides said lawmakers who attended the gala Wednesday night would be wearing their business attire they wore during the day on Capitol Hill.