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"The only thing preventing people from going back to work and basic research starting back up and farmers and small business owners getting their loans, the only thing that is preventing all that from happening right now, today, in the next five minutes is that Speaker John Boehner won't even let the bill get a yes or no vote because he doesn't want to anger the extremists in his party," Obama said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was even more pointed in singling Boehner out.
"We can't perform the most basic functions of government because he doesn't have the courage to stand up to that small band of anarchists," he said.
Moderate Republicans have said they think they could provide enough votes to join with minority Democrats and push a bill through the House reopening the government with no restrictions on the health care law. But under pressure from House GOP leaders, they failed to join Democratic efforts on Wednesday aimed at forcing the chamber to consider such legislation.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who is close to Boehner, said he doesn't think the speaker is ready to push any measure that would fail to win the backing of most of his 232 House Republicans. But some Democratic votes eventually will be needed in the 435-seat chamber, Cole said, because some hard-core conservative Republicans are unlikely to vote to end the shutdown or raise the debt ceiling without major concessions from Obama.
"You can't ask those Republicans to just put their political life on the line for nothing," he said. "They've got to be able to go home and say 'These are the things that I was able to do.'"
Even the Senate chaplain got drawn into the rising intensity of the partisan battle, opening Thursday's session with an unusually pointed prayer.
"Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable," said Dr. Barry Black. "Remove the burdens of those who are the collateral damage of this government shutdown."
And in a bit of sardonic understatement, Obama's motorcade passed workers outside an office building holding up a sign that simply asked, "Rough week?"