Then-President Barack Obama had stern words after the Republican minority in the Senate shut down the government for 16 days in 2013 over funding for Obamacare.
“You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it,” Obama said in remarks Oct. 17, 2013, after Congress reached a deal to reopen the government. “Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That’s not being faithful to what this country’s about.”
“Now, there’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown,” Obama said. “But let’s be clear. There are no winners here. These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy.”
The government shut down again early Saturday after the Senate failed to pass a temporary funding bill. Democrats voted against the measure and demanded a deal to address illegal immigrants who have protection under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Both parties have spent the past week fighting over who is more responsible for the shutdown. Republicans blame Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for fighting for illegal immigrants more than the military service members and government employees who would be affected by the shutdown.
“Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown. Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Saturday. “We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have placed the blame on Republicans who control the House, and the Senate by a narrow majority, and President Donald Trump for failing to negotiate, but neither side appears to be making specific policy demands.
Schumer himself decried the politics of brinksmanship that led to the 2013 shutdown. “No matter how strongly one feels about an issue, you shouldn’t hold millions of people hostage,” Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week” in 2013. “That’s what the other side is doing. That’s wrong, and we can’t give in to that.”
Obama’s 2013 charge that the GOP should “go out there and win an election” if they didn’t like his policies proved prophetic. Republicans gained nine Senate seats a year later in the 2014 midterm elections, ending nearly eight years of a Democratic majority in that chamber.