In a press conference that lasted more than an hour, President Obama said he was willing to talk about anything, as long as Republicans reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, even if its for a short period of time.
“Let’s stop the excuses. Let’s take a vote in the House. Let’s end this shutdown, right now; let’s put people back to work” Obama said.
The president said he’d “even spring for dinner again” when it came to negotiations, but he would not do so while the “extreme” wing of the Republican party is forcing Speaker John Boehner to issue unreasonable demands.
“We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy,” Obama said, adding that “we’re not going to pay a ransom for America paying its bills.”
Obama spoke as the government entered its eighth day of being shut down and just a little more than a week before the Treasury runs out of money, potentially forcing a default for the first time in history.
He spoke as the two sides in this fight — the GOP-controlled House and the Democratically-controlled Senate — seemed as far apart as when this started.
Earlier today, Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, and Obama — the two men most important to working out a solution to this standoff — spoke on the phone.
As Bill reported earlier, Boehner said that “by refusing to negotiate,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Obama were “putting our country on a pretty dangerous path.”
Boehner went on to tell reporters: “Listen, there’s never been a president in our history that did not negotiate over the debt limit, never, not once. As a matter of fact, President Obama negotiated with me over the debt limit in 2011.”
NPR’s Mara Liasson said Obama’s comments during the news conference “moved the needle a little bit.”
But the bottom line is Obama did not budge, although he did say he’d be willing to negotiate if Congress finds a short-term solution. NPR’s Scott Horsley said while the substance of what Obama said was pretty much the same, the tone was different.
We live-blogged the news conference, so if you want a play-by-play, keep reading.
Update at 3:20 p.m. ET. Non-Standoff Question:
Obama said the operations are in line with his assertion that the U.S. is moving away from wars and moving toward targeted operations to capture terrorists.
“We’re going to have to continue to go after them,” Obama said.
Update at 3:19 p.m. ET. ‘Not Going To Do That Again’:
Obama said when the country almost defaulted in 2011, he realized that the government could not make the American people go through the same thing again.
“That’s what we learned in 2011. We’re not going to do that again,” Obama said.
Update at 2:54 p.m. ET. No Lasting Damage:
If the government reopens and Congress works through lifting the debt ceiling in a timely manner, this showdown will not cause “lasting damage,” Obama said.
This episode will just be blamed on the “usual messy process of American democracy.”
He said that in the short term, this causes concern in the world at large, but as long as the U.S. deals with this in a timely manner, world leaders “will understand.”
Update at 2:46 p.m. ET. The Clock Is Ticking:
Obama shot down theories that he could single-handedly solve the debt ceiling crisis. He can’t “spin off a big coin” or invoke the Fourteenth Amendment, he said, because those two options would leave the Treasury shrouded in legal questions.
“Ultimately, what matters is what do the people who are buying Treasury bills think,” Obama said. Those two options, said Obama, would just leave uncertainty.
Update at 2:43 p.m. ET. Democrats Have Negotiated:
Obama made the arugment that Democrats have negotiated. Case in point, they’re willing to sign off on a short-term budget that continues funding the government at post-sequestration levels, or at a lower lever than most of them are happy with.
Update at 2:34 p.m. ET. Continue To Be Hopeful:
When asked if his administration would prioritize payments in the event that the country’s borrowing limit is not extended, Obama said any default — whether it’s to bondholders or retirees — would be damaging.
“I’m going to continue to be very hopeful that Congress will not put us in that position,” Obama said.
He said trying to minimize the potential effects of a default is “irresponsible.”
“No option is good in that scenario,” Obama said.
Update at 2:28 p.m. ET. Can’t Make Extortion Routine:
Obama reiterated that he is ready to talk about anything.
“I’ll even spring for dinner again,” Obama said, but he will not do so while the “extreme” wing of the Republican party is forcing Boehner to issue extreme demands.
“We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy,” Obama said.
He added: “We’re not going to pay a ransom for America paying its bills.”
Update at 2:24 p.m. ET. Risks Recession:
Unlike what some Republicans have been saying, Obama said, failing to raise the debt ceiling would be bad for the country.
It would mean the “significant risk of a very deep recession,” Obama said.
And economists agree, the president added. They’ve said letting the U.S. default on its debt would be “insane, catastrophic, chaos.”
Update at 2:20 p.m. ET. Bring A Clean CR To The Floor:
Obama called on Boehner to bring a clean continuing resolution to the House floor, saying he has the votes — if he combines a minority of Republicans and all Democrats — to pass the measure and reopen the government.
“Let’s stop the excuses. Let’s take a vote. Let’s end this shutdown, right now,” Obama said.
Update at 2:15 p.m. ET. Happy To Talk About Anything:
Obama says he is happy to talk to Republicans about anything, as long as it does not involve “hanging threats of government shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of American people.”
“That’s not the way negotiations work,” Obama said.
Update at 2:02 p.m. ET. Will President Obama Add Nuance?:
On NPR’s special coverage, Mara Liasson says what we should be watching here is whether Obama will “add nuance to his ‘I will not negotiate’ line.”
That is, Mara said, whether Obama will allow an opening for Boehner to “crawl off the branch” that he got himself on.
Just a bit of background: Remember, this started as a battle over the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Republicans attached conditions to defund or delay Obamacare to the bill that funds the government.
The government shut down over that fight and now, without a resolution to that first standoff, Congress is on to its next battle. This time, it’s about the debt ceiling, as Republicans have shifted their focus to fiscal issues, instead of the health care law.
Mara says what Republicans need is a “fig leaf,” or a small concession that allows them to save face.
Update at 1:37 p.m. ET. A Phone Call:
This press conference also comes after Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, and President Obama — the two men most important to working out a solution to this standoff — spoke on the phone.
As Bill reported earlier, according to a read-out of the call released by the White House, Obama told Boehner he was willing to negotiate about fiscal issues, just not while the government is shut down and while Congress hasn’t approved a raising of the debt ceiling.
Boehner said that “by refusing to negotiate,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Obama were “putting our country on a pretty dangerous path.”
He went on to tell reporters: “Listen, there’s never been a president in our history that did not negotiate over the debt limit, never, not once. As a matter of fact, President Obama negotiated with me over the debt limit in 2011.”