David Jackson, USA TODAY
President Obama blamed an imminent government shutdown on House Republicans on Monday and said his health care plan is "moving forward" despite GOP efforts to defund it.
"You don't get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway ... just because there's a law there that you don't like," Obama said in the White House briefing room.
Late Monday, Obama spoke by phone with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other top lawmakers, but there did not appear to be a breakthrough in the impasse that would trigger a shutdown.
Congress has two responsibilities, Obama told reporters: passing budgets and - in a reference to the upcoming battle over the debt ceiling - paying the government's bills. The Republicans are shirking both, he said.
Obama said a partial government shutdown - which would start at midnight unless there is an 11th-hour deal - will damage economic recovery and hurt "real people right away." He said, "It will throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction."
The lack of a spending plan will close federal offices, close parks, damage loan programs and delay services for senior citizens, businesspeople and veterans, Obama said.
Social Security, Medicare, mail, national security and public safety functions will continue despite the shutdown, the president said before holding a Cabinet meeting to discuss the likely shutdown.
"The federal government is America's largest employer," Obama said. "These Americans are our neighbors."
Accusing the Republicans of trying to refight last year's election and the health care battles of 2009-10, Obama called delay and defunding efforts "the height of irresponsibility."
Obama noted that health care exchanges - a key part of the law - will open Tuesday, "no matter what Congress decides to do today. The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can't shut it down."
If Congress and the White House do not agree on a temporary spending plan, major parts of the government will shut down when the fiscal year expires at midnight.
House Republicans passed a plan over the weekend that would delay the Obama health care plan for a year. Obama and members of the Democratic-run Senate say that is unacceptable.
Boehner, the top Republican in the House, said the Obama administration provided a one-year delay of the heath care law's provision that businesses cover their employees and has offered other exceptions.
In calling for a one-year delay of the entire law, Boehner said, "We believe that everyone should be treated fairly."
In both a brief statement and an interview with NPR News, Obama said Congress passed the health care law, and he is not going to delay in the face of Republican threats to block the budget.
"There are millions of Americans right now who do not have health insurance," Obama said. "And they are finally, after decades, going to be in a position where they can get affordable health care, just like everybody else."
Asked what he might "offer" Republicans to resolve the impasse, Obama said, "I shouldn't have to offer anything. They're not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do."
Earlier in the day, Obama said he was "not at all resigned" to the possibility that lawmakers would fail to meet a midnight deadline. The president said he would talk to congressional leaders on Monday and in the days ahead.
Late Monday, Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck tweeted that Obama called the GOP leader. Said Buck: "The speaker told the president that Obamacare is costing jobs and that American families are being denied basic fairness when big businesses are getting exemptions that they are not. The call lasted nearly ten minutes."
The White House said Obama also spoke with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"The President made clear that Congress has two jobs to do: pay the bills on time and pass a budget on time," said a White House statement. "Failure to fulfill those responsibilities is harmful to our economy, small businesses and middle class families across the country."
Earlier in the day, after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said that "there's a pretty straightforward solution to this. If you set aside the short-term politics and you look at the long term here, what it simply requires is everybody to act responsibly and do what's right for the American people."
The president proposed that House Republicans pass a Senate-cleared temporary spending bill with no conditions and that the parties negotiate long-term budget issues - including an increase in the debt ceiling, which the government expects to hit Oct. 17.
Obama did not specify whether he would meet with lawmakers in person Monday or speak to them over the phone.
Beyond the budget dispute is the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. Obama said that without an increase, the government faces the prospect of a first-ever default on its bills.
Obama said lawmakers should "sit down in good faith without threatening to harm women and veterans and children with a government shutdown, and certainly we can't have any kind of meaningful negotiations under the cloud of potential default."