Obama: 'We Can't Make Extortion Routine As Part of Our Democracy'
- By Matt Vasilogambros , Brian Resnick and Matt Berman
- National Journal
- October 8, 2013
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At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, the president pushed against the Republican strategy on the government shutdown and the debt-ceiling, saying that he and his party are the ones who have been trying to negotiate, not Republicans. The president pointed to the 19 times that Republicans rejected a conference committee on a budget, saying that Republicans are willing to risk "economic chaos" if they don't get "100 percent" of what they want.
The president also high-lighted the risks of a debt-ceiling breach, saying that "a decision to actually go through with it, to actually permit default, according to many CEOs would be, insane, catastrophic, chaos—these are more polite words."
"Let's lift these threats from our families and our businesses," Obama said, and "get back to work."
Obama opened his White House statement on his earlier phone call with Speaker Boehner. The president said he told the speaker that he's "happy to talk with him and other Republicans about anything," but that he will only negotiate with congressional Republicans over the budget after the threat of a default and the government shutdown have concluded. The president signaled that he'd be willing to negotiate on the tax code, job creation policies, and the Affordable Care Act. This could bring changes in the health care law if Boehner takes up the offer, although it's not clear now how far the president is willing to go. The Speaker has been sticking firm in not allowing a "clean" (void of Obamacare stipulations) continuing resolution to reach the House floor.
Obama also called on Boehner to allow the House to vote on a measure that would extend the debt limit for a year. A clean one-year extension, however, seems like a long-shot right now. Speaker Boehner explicitly ruled out such a plan on Sunday, and certain Republican congressmen believe the administration is bluffing on the threat of the debt limit. The latest public polling shows 47 percent of the country believes the debt ceiling needs to be avoided, though there is a big partisan divide. Fifty-four percent of Republicans think we can pass the deadline "without major problems."
Speaker Boehner and House Republicans, for their part, are set to introduce a bill Tuesday that would establish a panel of House and Senate members to hash out a deal. This plan is already getting hammered as a blueprint for just another "super committee."
We'll update this post with questions taken by the president as they come in.
UPDATE (3:02 p.m.): In an otherwise pat bit of political speak about how "compromise" is not a dirty word, the president said that though he has flaws, an inability to compromise is not one of them. "I've been willing to compromise my whole political career."
UPDATE (2:56 p.m.): In other news... While the president was speaking, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his plans to introduce a clean debt ceiling bill to the Senate later on Tuesday.
UPDATE (2:54 p.m.): Speaking about Citizens United and the state of U.S. politics, the president tried his hand at diagnosing how the U.S. has gotten into this political situation:
"A big chunk of the Republican right now are in gerrymandered districts where there's no competition. And those folks are much more worried about a tea party challenger than a general election…and in that environment, it's a lot harder for them to compromise."
UPDATE (2:48 p.m.): Hitting back on the idea that the Treasury Department has "other rabbits in [their] hat" to prevent a debt default, the president said that the department has already just about used up all the "extraordinary measures" available.
Obama did address the concept of using the 14th amendment or a platinum coin to act unilaterally to raise the ceiling. He was slightly vague, but said that
"Setting aside the legal analysis, what matters is that if you start having a situation in which there's legal controversy about Treasury's authority to issue debt, the damage will have been done even if that were constitutional because people wouldn't be sure. It would be tied up in litigation for a long time. "
"There are no magic bullets here," he said.
UPDATE (2:42 p.m.): The president tried to also make an oft-touted Democratic point that a "clean" budget already includes the sequestration "meat cleaver" cuts. Those cuts, Obama said, have already hurt thousands of families with cuts to Head Start. The shutdown just makes that worse.
UPDATE (2:38 p.m.): Obama, responding to a question, tried to speak to the people--including members of Congress--who don't view a debt-ceiling breach as a big deal:
"What I have to remind them is, we have a lot of other obligations, not just people who pay treasury bills. We have senior citizens counting on their social security arriving on time. We have veterans who are disabled who are counting on their benefits."
And to, you know, draw a clear line: "It is a big deal."
UPDATE (2:36 p.m.): The president, speaking about what would happen if Congress does not raise the debt-limit, made things personal:
"I say, imagine in your private life, if you decided that I'm not going to pay my mortgage for a month or two—first of all you're not saving money by not paying your mortgage. You're just a dead beat. And you can anticipate that will hurt your credit. "
"Which means that in addition to debt collectors calling, you're going to have trouble borrowing in the future. In you're able to borrow in future, it will be a higher rate. What's true for individuals is also true for nations, even the most powerful nation on earth. "