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Mayor Emanuel offers fiery defense of Obama in wake of shutdown

Rahm Emanuel with President Obama. FILE PHOTO | Sun-Times Library

Rahm Emanuel with President Obama. FILE PHOTO | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: November 4, 2013 12:08PM

With adjectives flying, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday gave a fiery defense of his former boss, President Barack Obama, in the standoff with Republicans over the Affordable Care Act that triggered the federal government shutdown.

“It’s foolish. It’s preventable. What they’re doing [in] the Republican Party in Congress [by] allowing a small minority to try to hold the rest of the country hostage is wrong for the people, the children, seniors. It’s wrong for the economy and people who have jobs. ... It’s an economic engine. It’s a totally wrongheaded approach with real consequences,” the mayor said.

Emanuel said he reached out to Republican “leaders I knew” during his days in Congress and as White House chief of staff. They’re all “fully conscious this is a wrongheaded strategy,” the mayor said. But, that’s not good enough.

Noting that “every caucus is diverse,” Emanuel said, “It’s time for the Republican leaders in Congress to step up, provide leadership and tell a small minority in their party to stop trying to hold the country hostage to their ideology. It’s wrong first of all. But that said, the country should not be put at risk to try to fulfill what they’re trying to do, on which the election was a referendum. Elections have consequences. The American people have spoken.”

Emanuel argued that Obama is being “very reasonable about a way to move forward” on the health care program, while some members of the Republican party are being “unreasonable, irresponsible and reckless.”

Funding for much of the U.S. government was halted after Republicans hitched a routine spending bill to their effort to kill or delay the health care law they call Obamacare. The president accuses them of holding the government hostage.

The mayor described public safety and other city services as “immune” from the federal shutdown. But he acknowledged that a protracted shutdown would have an impact.

“Meals-on-Wheels to our most vulnerable seniors. That’s a federally funded program administered locally. At a certain point, if this goes on longer — I’m not saying it will, but if it does — it will have an impact, both on the people who provide it and the people who rely on it,” he said.

Emanuel is a self-described veteran of federal government shutdowns. He was a young White House staffer during the 1995-96 shutdown that pitted former President Bill Clinton against then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The mayor was also was on a path to become U.S. House speaker before being drafted to become Obama’s first White House chief of staff. But he was so disgusted with the first shutdown since the mid-1990s that he rued the day he ever went to Washington D.C.

“I’m so happy I left that city. And I think there are some people in that city who would like to follow suit,” Emanuel said smiling.

Contributing: AP


Twitter: @fspielman

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