By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, Sept 30 U.S. President Barack Obama
on Monday prepared Americans for what he called an "entirely
preventable" government shutdown while urging Republicans in
Congress to reach an 11th-hour deal to avoid economic harm.
With no apparent movement in negotiations, the White House
prepared to put in place a skeleton staff on Tuesday to operate
essential functions like the National Security Council. Many
staff were preparing for furloughs of uncertain length.
And Obama's own plans seemed up in the air. He is scheduled
to leave Saturday on a four-nation, week-long tour to Asia, but
a shutdown could force a postponement.
"We have this trip scheduled, and we intend to take it,"
said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "You know, we'll see
obviously what happens as the week unfolds."
Hours before a shutdown was to begin, Obama placed phone
calls to the two top congressional Republicans, House of
Representatives Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican
leader Mitch McConnell, but they appeared to restate well-worn
positions and there was no sign of a breakthrough.
"The president made clear that Congress has two jobs to do:
pay the bills on time and pass a budget on time. Failure to
fulfill those responsibilities is harmful to our economy, small
businesses and middle class families across the country," the
White House said.
The president and his aides worked to prepare Americans for
the possibility of a shutdown, the resulting impact on the U.S.
economy and to pin the blame on Republicans who want to gut his
"I respect the fact that the other party is not supposed to
agree with me 100 percent of the time, just like I don't agree
with them. But they do also expect that we don't bring the
entire government to a halt or the entire economy to a halt just
because of those differences," he said.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama stressed
that mail would be delivered and Social Security payments would
be made, but warned that national monuments would close
immediately to tourists, government office buildings would close
and veteran centers would lack staff if a shutdown took place.
"A shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real
people, right away. Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy
significantly. This one will too."
The law funding thousands of routine government activities
expires at midnight.
Washington edged ever closer to a shutdown as the U.S.
Senate, controlled by Democrats, killed a proposal by the
Republican-led House of Representatives to delay Obama's
healthcare law for a year in return for temporary funding of the
federal government beyond Monday.
Obama stressed that the healthcare law, known as Obamacare,
would proceed regardless of whether the government shut its
Publicly, Obama was optimistic about a last-second deal.
Speaking during an Oval Office meeting with visiting Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said he was not
resigned to a shutdown happening and in his remarks to reporters
later he said he hoped a deal could still be reached.
"Time is running out. My hope and expectation is that in the
11th hour once again that Congress will choose to do the right
As the hours ticked away toward a shutdown, Obama met with
his Cabinet to discuss the potential disruptions of a shutdown
for their respective agencies and ensure essential operations
will take place.