Obama denounces GOP's "empty promises" on government shutdown

President Obama admonished some Republicans for offering "empty promises" to either repeal Obamacare or shut down the federal government in his weekly address on Saturday. "This isn't a game," he said. "This is about the economic security of millions of families."

Meanwhile, in the weekly Republican address, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., warned that the health-care law is clearly not working the way it's supposed to, calling on the president to delay the implementation of the law's individual mandate, which requires individuals to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

The president said the law is already yielding benefits for consumers, like the discounted prescription drugs now available to Medicare patients. And he noted a few upcoming deadlines, including the opening of the health-insurance exchanges on Oct. 1, which will allow consumers to "comparison shop" for insurance plans in an online marketplace.

He also said the law is already lowering costs in states where governors and legislatures are working with insurance companies to implement the law, an assertion challenged by Capito, who said that other states have detailed the "rate shock" consumers will experience buying insurance under Obamacare.

"Many members of Congress, in both parties, are working hard to inform their constituents about these benefits, protections and affordable plans," the president noted, "but there's also a group of Republicans in Congress working hard to confuse people and making empty promises that they'll either shut down the health-care law, or, if they don't get their way, they'll shut down the government."

"Think about that. They're actually having a debate between hurting Americans who will no longer be denied affordable care just because they've been sick - and harming the economy and millions of Americans in the process," he said.

Some in the GOP, led by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have championed an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act by shutting down the federal government, but other Republicans have said that a shutdown will hurt the GOP politically, maim the American economy, and do almost nothing to undermine the health-care law.

That intra-party dispute, and Republicans' ongoing negotiations with Democrats, will have to be resolved in some way before the current law funding the government expires at the end of September.

Avoiding any talk of a government shutdown, Capito made a more targeted case against the president's health-care law in her address, urging Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama to support a recent House-passed law that would delay the law's individual mandate.

"Recent developments have proven the wisdom and the urgency" of the House's vote to delay the mandate, Capito said, noting that some businesses have said they'll have to cut back on employee hours or fire people as a result of the law. She also criticized the administration's recent decision to delay the cap on out-of-pocket expenses, which would limit the amount of money people had to contribute to their own health care on an annual basis.

"Just days ago, it came to light that the president gave big businesses another pass - this time at the behest of insurance companies that say they need more time to comply," she said. "The president claims this law is 'working the way it's supposed to,' but clearly it's not. Not when the administration is missing deadlines, issuing waivers, and granting delays hand over fist."

In light of that delay, Capito urged the president to reconsider his opposition to delaying the individual mandate. "Let's delay this health-care law not just for some, but for all Americans," she suggested. "That would only be fair. That would be government working the way it's supposed to."

Capito, a 12-year veteran of the House who is seeking to make the jump to the Senate in 2014, announced this week that she would not would not accept any health-care subsidy made available to her by the Affordable Care Act. She also introduced a bill that would force the rest of Congress to follow her example.

"At the same time the president is unfairly choosing to give businesses a free pass for a year and leave everyday Americans out in the cold, families across the country are bracing for skyrocketing premiums," she said in a press release announcing her legislation. "As long as Obamacare remains law, Members of Congress should not receive exchange subsidies that are not provided to other Americans."

  • Jake Miller

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