'Obamacare' impasse brings US government to its knees
US President Barack Obama has labelled the current impasse in Washington as a "Republican shutdown" after Congress failed to agree a new budget.
Republican-led House of Representatives insisted on delaying Mr Obama's healthcare reform – dubbed Obamacare – as a condition for passing a bill.
He said : "For the first time in 17 years, the Republicans in Congress chose to shut down the federal government, all because they didn't like one law.
"Republicans in the House refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the ACA. They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade... in other words they've demanded a ransom.
"The longer the shutdown continues, the worse the effects will be."
Mr Obama, who has vowed not to allow Republicans to cripple his signature health care law, told federal workers in an letter on Tuesday that he hopes Washington quickly resolves the shutdown, which he called "completely preventable".
With no budget, the US government had no choice but to send hundreds of thousands of federal workers on unpaid leave, affecting agencies as varied as the Justice Department, Nasa, the National Parks Service and the Pentagon in the first shutdown in nearly two decades.
The Democratic-led Senate voted to reject the latest House Republican effort to negotiate on the budget amid the government shutdown. The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, said he would not negotiate as long as Republicans were holding up a straightforward spending bill to keep the government operating.
The vote marked the fourth time that the Democratic-controlled Senate has rejected House Republican efforts.
Mr Obama said: "You don't get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there's a law there that you don't like.
"We can't win," said Republican senator John McCain, adding that "sooner or later" the House would have to agree to Democrats' demands for a simple, straightforward funding bill.
Earlier, as Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to budge on their demands that any funding measure include provisions to delay or water-down the President's signature healthcare reforms, Mr Obama warned that a shutdown would throw "a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction."
According to the White House, a shutdown lasting one week would cost the US economy something in the region of $10bn.
Congress had until midnight last night to agree on a stopgap budget to keep the money flowing to government departments into the new fiscal year. But Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to countenance any measure that left the President's healthcare reforms – known collectively as Obamacare – untouched. The Senate, which is controlled by President Obama's Democrats, was equally adamant, stripping out any Obamacare-related provisions in funding bills approved by the House and demanding that the Republican-controlled chamber approve a 'clean' bill, that deals with the budget issue.
The cost of a shutdown lasting just one week to the US economy