President Obama delivered the following remarks on the government shutdown and the launch of the health-care exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1 in the White House Rose Garden.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: All right. Good morning, everybody. (Feedback.) Whoops.
At midnight last night -- can everybody hear me? Mic working?
Good morning, everybody. At midnight last night, for the first time in 17 years Republicans in Congress chose to shut down the federal government. Let me be more specific. One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government all because they didn't like one law.
This Republican shut down did not have to happen, but I want every American to understand why it did happen. Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act.
They've 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.
And many representatives, including an increasing number of Republicans, have made it clear that had they been allowed by Speaker Boehner to take a simple up-or-down vote on keeping the government open, with no partisan strings attached, enough votes from both parties would have kept the American people's government open and operating.
Now, we may not know the full impact of this Republican shutdown for some time. It will depend on how long it lasts.
But we do know a couple of things. We know that the last time Republicans shut down the government in 1996, it hurt our economy. And unlike 1996, our economy's still recovering from the worst recession in generations.
We know that certain services and benefits that America's seniors and veterans and business owners depend on must be put on hold. Certain offices, along with every national part and monument, must be closed.
And while last night I signed legislation to make sure our 1.4 million active duty military are paid through the shutdown, hundreds of thousands of civilian workers, many still on the job, many forced to stay home -- aren't being paid, even if they have families to support and local businesses that rely on them.
And we know that the longer this shutdown continues, the worse the effects will be. More families will be hurt. More businesses will be harmed. So once again, I urge House Republicans to reopen the government, restart the services Americans depend on and allow the public servants who have been sent home to return to work.
This is only going to happen when Republicans realize they don't get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands.
As I've said repeatedly, I am prepared with Democrats and Republicans to do the things we need to do: to grow the economy and create jobs and get our fiscal house in order over the long run, although I should add this shutdown isn't about deficits or spending or budgets. After all, our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in 50 years. We've cut them in half since I took office. In fact, many of the demands the Republicans are now making would actually raise our deficits.
No, this shutdown is not about deficits. It's not about budgets. This shutdown is about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don't have it. It's all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act.
This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days. 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.
And of course what's stranger still is that shutting down our government doesn't accomplish their stated goal. 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.
And because of its funding sources, it's not impacted by a government shutdown. And these Americans are here with me today because even though the government is closed, a big part of the Affordable Care Act is now open for business.
And for them and millions like them, this is a historic day for a good reason.
It's been a long time coming. But today Americans who have been forced to go without insurance can now visit healthcare.gov and enroll in affordable new plans that offer quality coverage. That starts today.
And people will have six months to sign up. So over the next six months, people are going to have the opportunity, many -- in many cases for the first time in their lives -- to get affordable coverage that they desperately need.