U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday urged Congress to "pass a budget that funds our government with no partisan strings attached," blaming this week's shutdown on a "reckless" decision by House Republicans.
The partial suspension of federal government operations, which began at midnight Monday, was spurred by the unwillingness of some GOP House members to vote for a resolution unless Obama and the Democrats agreed to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA, also known as Obamacare, is the administration's flagship domestic initiative and the president refused to consider any changes or delays.
"There are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives today that if the speaker of the House, John Boehner, simply let the bill get on the floor for an up or down vote, every congressman could vote their conscience, the shutdown would end today," Obama said at a small business in Rockville, Maryland.
Noting Republicans' claim that Obamacare will hurt the economy, he said the shutdown is doing far more damage.
"The only thing that is keeping the government shut down ... is that Speaker John Boehner won't even let the bill get a yes or no vote because he doesn't want to anger the extremists in his party," Obama said.
The president also noted the need for Congress to increase the debt ceiling before Oct. 17, given that if it does not do so the United States will go into default.
"As reckless as a government shutdown is, an economic shutdown that results from default would be dramatically worse," he said.
"There will be no negotiations over this. The American people are not pawns in some political game. You don't get to demand ransom in exchange for keeping the government running," he said.
The shutdown has affected more than 800,000 federal employees who currently are on unpaid furloughs.
Besides the fact that hundreds of thousands of federal employees are out of work, the paralysis is affecting national parks, museums and even companies that contract with the government to provide goods and services.
The most recent episode of this type occurred 17 years ago, during the presidency of Bill Clinton, also a Democratic, and on that occasion the shutdown lasted for 21 days. EFE