Emanuel blasts 'wrong-headed' GOP leaders over shutdown

October 2, 2013

WBEZ/Bill Healy
File: Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday blasted Congressional Republicans for their “wrong-headed” budget brinksmanship he said led to a partial government shutdown, while maintaining that city services are still immune to the impasse in Washington.

“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,” Emanuel told reporters at an unrelated press conference on Wednesday.

As the first federal shutdown in nearly 18 years entered its second day, Emanuel said city services are still unaffected by the shutdown, which has caused thousands of Chicago-area federal workers to be sent home without pay.

But if the shutdown persists, the city’s immunity could wear off, Emanuel said. He pointed to Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers food to home-bound senior citizens.

“That’s a federally-funded program, administered locally. It will have an impact, both on the people that provide it, [and] the people that rely on it,” Emanuel said. “And it’s wrong. It’s foolish. It’s preventable.”

Joyce Gallagher, who heads the city’s Senior Services Area Agency on Aging, said there have been no impacts on the meals program yet, and she did not anticipate any down the road. The mayor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for clarification.

Though Emanuel wouldn’t name names, the mayor said he has been talking with leaders he knows in Washington, D.C. from his years as a Democratic Congressman.

“The ones I’ve talked to are fully conscious this is a wrong-headed strategy,” he said.

He also defended President Barack Obama’s handling of the shutdown, suggesting that it’s time for the GOP to drop its at-any-cost opposition to the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called “Obamacare.”

“The election was a referendum. Elections have consequences. The American people have spoken, he has gotten re-elected, and he’s being very reasonable about a way to move forward. They are being unreasonable and irresponsible and reckless.”

House Republicans have blamed Senate Democrats and the White House for refusing to accept any of their proposed changes to the president’s signature health care law.

Al Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him @akeefe