72% of US voters oppose Congress' shutting-down of the federation government to block implementation of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare), according to a new national poll.
64% also oppose blocking an increase in the national debt ceiling as a way to stop the ACA, major portions of the law – those which are not dependent on federal funding - took effect October 1, the independent Quinnipiac University poll shows.
Voters are divided on the ACA, with 45% in favour and 47% opposed, but they are opposed 58%-34% to Congress cutting off funding for it to stop its implementation.
“Americans are certainly not in love with Obamacare, but they reject decisively the claim by Congressional Republicans that it is so bad that it is worth closing down the government to stop it,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Pres Obama “enters this standoff over the budget with an edge over Congressional Republicans in the voters’ eyes,” he added.
Speaking yesterday in the White House Rose Garden, Pres Obama maintained that the shutdown is not about deficits or budgets, but about “rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it. This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days.”
As the stalemate continues, over 700,00 federal employees facie being sent home without pay, including 40,512 workers at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or 52% of its employees, with 37,686 staff (48%) being retained.
Agencies within HHS whose work will be affected include the Food and Drug Administration, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Medical researchers have attacked Congress for jeopardising biomedical research, after the NIH told them it would be unable to process grant applications or offer grantee support during the shutdown.
Many researchers rely heavily on NIH funding to conduct cutting-edge research, Janis Abkowitz, president of the American Society of Hematology points out.
“As a consequence of Congress’ inability to pass a federal budget, our members – already reeling from sequestration-related NIH budget cuts – face additional uncertainty,” said Dr Abkowitz, adding: “we simply cannot afford to place lifesaving biomedical research on hold on account of congressional bickering.”
The federal government’s next deadline is October 17, when it reaches its borrowing limit, or debt ceiling.