Federal employees would be among those hardest hit by a government shutdown in the near term, President Obama said in a brief White House appearance Monday evening.
Obama noted that federal office buildings would close, paychecks would be delayed, and vital services ranging from veterans’ programs to Hurricane Sandy relief projects would be “hamstrung.”
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers would remain on the job, but see their paychecks delayed until the shutdown is over, the president said, while hundreds of thousands more would be furloughed without pay. “What, of course, will not be furloughed is the bills they have to pay,” he added.
“I think it’s important that everybody understand the federal government is America’s largest employer,” Obama said.
Among those affected, he said, would be Agriculture Department employees working in rural communities, Housing and Urban Development workers helping people find homes, and Veterans Affairs counselors working to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“These Americans are our neighbors,” Obama said. “Their kids go to our schools, they worship where we do, they serve our country with pride, they are the customers of every business in this country, and they would be hurt greatly. And as a consequence all of us would be hurt greatly.”
Obama made his remarks as the House and Senate remained deadlocked over a measure to temporarily continue funding for federal agencies when the new fiscal year begins at midnight. House Republicans have attempted to link a continuation of funding to changes or delays in implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats have insisted on a “clean” extension of funding.
Failure on the part of Congress to provide funding to keep government open is the “height of irresponsibility,” Obama said.
“Time’s running out,” the president added. “My hope and expectation is that in the 11th hour, once again, Congress will choose to do the right thing.”