Barack Obama: Republicans want 'ransom' to end shutdown

US President Barack Obama has vowed not to allow Republicans to undermine his signature healthcare legislation as a condition to restart the US government. The government has partially shut down after the two houses of Congress failed to agree to a new budget, with Republicans insisting on the repeal or delay of Mr Obama's health law.

"They demanded ransom," Mr Obama said. More than 700,000 federal employees face unpaid leave, and national parks, museums and many buildings are closed. On Tuesday, Mr Obama blamed conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives for the shutdown, saying "one faction of one party" was responsible because "they didn't like one law". "They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans," Mr Obama said at the White House. He insisted Congress "pass a budget, end the government shutdown, pay your bills, prevent an economic shutdown".

'The good fight' What does shutdown mean for two million federal employees, agencies and tourist destinations? Republicans, meanwhile, have called for talks with the Democrats. "Perhaps if President Obama spent less time giving hyper-partisan speeches and more time working with Congress solving problems, we wouldn't find ourselves in this avoidable situation," Rory Cooper, a spokesman for Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, told the BBC.

The White House has rejected a Republican plan to fund only a few portions of the government - national parks, veterans' programmes and the budget of the District of Columbia. The Obama administration said it would veto any bill to fund the government in part. "These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government," spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement. Mr Obama did sign a bill on Monday evening to ensure that the military would be paid during the shutdown. Furloughed federal worker: "They're all ridiculous" A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner called the White House's position "unsustainably hypocritical".

While the Democrats appear united in their opposition to opening discussions on changes to the health law known as Obamacare, signs of fissures have begun to show within the Republican Party.

Representative Scott Rigell broke ranks with Republican leadership and threw his support behind a budget bill that would leave the health law untouched. "We fought the good fight," he told the New York Times. And Representative Peter King told the Washington Post he was "the only one who spoke strongly in opposition" to the shutdown, describing his conservative colleagues as "living in their own echo chamber, hearing themselves and talking to each other".


While the Democrats and Republicans blame one another for the morass, a poll released on Tuesday suggested the American public was inclined to fault the Republican strategy. An estimated 72% of voters oppose Congress shutting down the federal government in order to block the health law, according a poll by Quinnipiac University.