By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama andVice President Joe Biden took an unusual stroll to a sandwichshop down the street from the White House on Friday, a photoopportunity designed to show their solidarity for workers laidoff due to a government shutdown.
Obama also seized the opportunity to respond to anembarrassing quote from an unnamed White House official thatRepublicans have used to their advantage in the battle over whois to blame for hundreds of thousands of people going withoutpay checks.
Obama has called the budget impasse a "Republican shutdown"and has sought to pin the blame for it firmly on House SpeakerJohn Boehner.
But on Friday, the Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamedObama administration official as saying, "We are winning ... Itdoesn't really matter to us" how long the shutdown lasts"because what matters is the end result."
Before buying the vice-president a salami sandwich fromTaylor Gourmet, packed with a lunch-time crowd of surprisedtourists and office workers, Obama responded to a shoutedquestion from a reporter about the "winning" quote.
"There's no winning when families don't have certainty overwhether they're going to get paid or not," Obama said.
"As long as they're off the job, nobody's winning," Obamasaid.
It was Obama's fifth public appearance this week to presshis point that Republicans should sign off on a Senate-passedstop-gap funding bill to restart the government.
On Monday he spoke about the looming shutdown to reportersin the Oval Office and later in the White House briefing room.
The next day when the government closed down, he gave aspeech in the Rose Garden. On Thursday, he traveled just outsidethe Beltway to a cement plant to give a fiery campaign-stylespeech mocking an Indiana Republican lawmaker for saying of thebudget impasse "we have to get something out of this."
The lawmaker, Marlin Stutzman, told the Washington Examinerthat "We're not going to be disrespected ... We have to getsomething out of this. And I don't know what that even is."
Stutzman later sought to clarify his remarks, saying he"carelessly misrepresented the ongoing budget debate."
On Friday, it was Obama's turn to explain the damaging"winning" quote, shortly after Boehner held a press conferenceto complain that Obama will not negotiate.
"This isn't some damn game!" Boehner said.
Hundreds of delighted tourists and unfurloughed governmentworkers showed nothing but delight that they had run into Obamaand Biden (and their security entourage) walking down thestreet.
"Stay strong, Mr. President!" one man yelled. "Hang tough!"yelled another.
The restaurant was one of many American establishmentsoffering so-called "furlough freebies" to government workers -in this case, 10 percent off sandwiches.
"That's an indication of how ordinary Americans look aftereach other," Obama said, saying the shutdown would end ifBoehner allows a vote on the Senate funding bill - a vote thatDemocrats argue would pass.
"Reopen the government," Obama said. "Take your cues fromfolks like these."
- Politics & Government
- Budget, Tax & Economy
- Barack Obama
- government shutdown
- Vice President Joe Biden
- White House