President Barack Obama placed blame for a government shutdown squarely with the GOP on Tuesday, labeling the cessation in government business a "Republican shutdown" that threatens to damage the economy.
"This Republican shutdown did not have to happen. But I want every American to understand why it did happen," Obama said during remarks in the Rose Garden. "They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans."
Obama emerged half a day after a shutdown took hold following Congress' failure to authorize spending to fund the federal government's day-to-day operations past Sept. 30, resulting in furloughs for hundreds of thousands of non-essential government employers.
The president warned, too, that the shutdown could take an increasing toll on a fragile American economy the longer it lasts. But Obama's remarks were meant to only increase the pressure on Republicans in Congress to take up legislation to reinstate government funding.
"This is only going to happen when Republicans realize they don't get to hold the economy hostage over ideological demands," Obama said. "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."
As Obama publicly excoriated congressional Republicans, the House GOP was set to huddle on Capitol Hill to regroup after the Senate met this morning to quickly reject the last stopgap spending measure volleyed over to them late Monday night. The party-line vote essentially returned the debate to the lower chamber, suggesting that the larger battle over reinstating funding is nowhere near resolution.
"Rejecting the House-passed effort to go to conference, Senate Democrats today slammed the door on re-opening the federal government by refusing to talk," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after the Senate vote.
Complicating matters for President Barack Obama, his Democratic allies and Republican adversaries in Congress is that they must now venture onto uncertain political terrain, given that this shutdown is the first one in 17 years.
Monday’s flurry of activity ended after Democrats rejected an 11th-hour attempt by Republicans to convene a “conference” committee – the formal process of resolving differences between House and Senate legislation – after their repeated attempts to both fund government and undo either part or all of Obamacare were rejected by the Democratic Senate.
On Tuesday, Reid said that Democrats would be happy to engage in a conference committee -- but only after Republicans relented, and passed the extension of government spending through mid-November favored by Democrats.
“We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,” Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said late Monday on the Senate floor.
But it was up to lawmakers to break their stalemate over funding the government, and the path toward an agreement to re-open the federal government was anything but clear on Tuesday morning.
Some Republicans started to voice support for a "clean" extension of spending along the lines of the legislation favored by Obama and Democrats. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., whose district benefits from government spending, tweeted that Republicans had "fought the good fight" and should agree to a clean CR. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the foremost proponents of the defund-Obamacare effort, floated the idea of a one-week continuation of government spending to allow time for negotiations.
Other conservatives began floating a limited series of spending bills to reinstate funding for some non-controversial (and publicly tangible) items, like ensuring the operation of national parks.
But in the absence of a solution, leaders in both parties shifted to playing the blame game, as Republicans accused Democrats of having forced the shut down, and vice versa.
And new polling released Tuesday morning suggested that blame was likely to fall unevenly upon both political parties, with Americans directing their ire more toward Republicans in Congress than Obama or Democratic lawmakers.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that Americans gave Republicans in Congress their lowest marks ever, with 74 percent disapproving of the way the GOP is handling its job. (Sixty percent of Americans said they disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress were handling their job, and 49 percent disapproved of the way Obama is handling his job.)
Moreover, the poll also found that voters broadly oppose – 72 to 22 percent – shutting down the federal government to block the implementation of Obamacare, the core element of Republicans’ strategy to date. And perhaps more ominously for the GOP, the Quinnipiac poll also found that Democrats enjoyed their strongest showing over Republicans in the generic congressional ballot, a key barometer of national sentiment heading into the midterm elections, since 2009.
If elections for the House were being held today, the poll found, 43 percent of voters would prefer to elect a Democratic candidate, versus 43 percent who would elect a Republican.