WASHINGTON – As much of the federal government grinds to a halt, President Obama is telling the U.S. military he'll push Congress to re-open the government as soon as possible.
In his sole response early Tuesday to Congress' failure to avert the first shutdown in 17 years, Obama addressed his comments in a video to American troops, rather than the lawmakers he's been scolding for weeks.
There was no reference in the three-minute video message to Republicans, whose insistence that Obama's health care law be scaled back has been at the center of a grueling back-and-forth between the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic-led Senate.
"Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility," Obama said. "It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again."
Troops in uniform in Afghanistan and elsewhere will stay on duty, Obama said, noting he'd signed a law Monday to ensure they get their paychecks on time. That GOP bill began in the House and was taken up by the Senate, reflecting a rare measure of agreement among Democrats and Republicans: No one wants to be blamed for the military not getting paid.
But thousands of civilians who work for the Defense Department face furloughs, compounding the damage already inflicted on the military by automatic spending cuts.
"I know this comes on top of the furloughs that many of you already endured this summer," Obama said. "You and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we're seeing in Congress."
Hundreds of thousands of government workers will be off the job Tuesday, but some essential services will continue.