"This Republican shutdown 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," Obama said. "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."
Obama spoke in the Rose Garden on the first day of the government shutdown. He said the longer the shutdown continues, the worse the impact will be.
"We know that the last time Republicans shut down the government in 1996, it hurt our economy," Obama said. "And unlike 1996, our economy is still recovering from the worst recession in generations."
The president said Republicans should not be able to hold the entire economy "hostage." He urged them to reopen the government quickly and allow furloughed federal employees to go back to work.
"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," he said. "This is only going to happen when Republicans realize they don’t get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands."
Obama insisted he wouldn't give in to Republicans.
"As long as I am president, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hardworking Americans," he said.
The government shut down because Congress did not pass a funding bill ahead of Monday's midnight deadline for the end of the 2013 fiscal year.
Earlier Tuesday, Obama sent federal workers a letter lamenting that they had become "punching bags" in Washington's partisan fiscal fights. About 800,000 federal workers are being forced off the job.
Obama said that if the shutdown continues, it will make it more difficult to recruit talented people for government jobs.
"We’re better than this," he said.