Washington: US President Barack Obama Tuesday blamed Republicans in Congress for the federal government shutdown, and defended his signature health care law.
In a televised speech delivered in the White House Rose Garden on the first day of the first government shutdown in 17 years, Obama said Republicans in the Congress "chose" the government shutdown that " did not have to happen".
"They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans."
"Many Representatives have made it clear that had they been allowed by (House) Speaker (John) Boehner to take a simple up or down vote on keeping government open with no strings attached, enough votes from both parties would have kept the American people 's government open and operating," he said.
The last time the government shut down was in 1996 during budget standoff between the Bill Clinton administration and a Republican-controlled Congress. "Unlike 1996, our economy is still recovering from the worst recession in generations," Obama said.
"The longer this shutdown continues, the worst the effects will be," Obama said, urging Congress to "pass a budget" and "end the government shutdown".
He stressed that this shutdown is neither about deficits, nor about budgets, but about "rolling back the Affordable Care Act". The law, commonly known as Obamacare, passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law in 2010. The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional last year.
Obama said because of the funding sources, the health care law is not impacted by a government shutdown. "Even though the government is closed, a big part of the Affordable Care Act is now open for business."
After weeks of congressional back-and-forth, the Democrats- controlled Senate and the Republican-led House of Representatives failed to strike a last-minute deal to avert a government shutdown.
The House sought to make delaying or defunding all or part of the Obamacare a condition for approving government spending for the fiscal year that began Tuesday. Obama and his fellow Democrats refused to accept those conditions.
The White House Office of Management and Budget late Monday night ordered federal agencies to begin their plans for "an orderly" government shutdown.