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Obama On The GOP: 'I Shouldn't Have To Offer Anything'
Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 10:09 pm
With just hours to go before a potential government shutdown, President Obama said there is still a window to avert it.
"There's still an opportunity, during the course of this day to avert a shutdown and make sure that we are paying our bills," Obama said in an interview with NPR.
But when asked if any proposal from the House is closer to something he would approve, Obama said flatly, "No."
Obama spoke to Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep on Monday afternoon at the White House, but down the street, a momentous battle was happening on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers were in a partisan frenzy trying to avoid the first government shutdown in nearly two decades.
At the center of the debate is Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. The GOP-controlled House was trying to stop implementation of the law by inserting language into the bill that funds government operations. But the Democratically controlled Senate stood firm, saying it would not accept anything but a clean continuing resolution, or a bill that funds the government, but does not include language about Obamacare.
Obama stood with his party members in the Senate. Steve asked if that opportunity to avoid a shutdown exists, what was he willing to offer.
"Steve when you say what can I offer? I shouldn't have to offer anything," Obama said. "They're not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That's part of their basic function of government; that's not doing me a favor. That's doing what the American people sent them here to do, carrying out their responsibilities.
"I have said consistently that I'm always happy to talk to Republicans and Democrats about how we shape a budget that is investing in things like early childhood education, rebuilding our roads and bridges and putting people back to work, growing our economy, making sure that we have the research and development to stay at the cutting edge and that deals with some of our long-term debt issues. But we're not going to accomplish those things if one party to this conversation says that the only way that they come to the table is if they get 100 percent of what they want and if they don't, they threaten to burn down the house."
Obama also told Steve that he would not negotiate on the fate of Obamacare.
"Steve, let's be clear, we're not going to delay the Affordable Care Act," Obama said. "There are millions of Americans, right now, who don't have health insurance and they are, finally, after decades going to be in a position where they can get get affordable health care just like everybody else and that means that their families, their kids, themselves, they've got the basic security that you and I enjoy. And the notion that we would even delay them getting that kind of peace of mind, potentially going to a doctor to get treated for illnesses that they currently have simply because the Republicans have decided, ideologically, that they're opposed to the Affordable Care Act is not something that we're going to be discussing."
Much more of President Obama's talk with Steve will air Tuesday on Morning Edition. Click here to find an NPR member station near you.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
Two defiant statements came from Washington today. One came from House Speaker John Boehner. He said the House will not vote on a measure to fund the government unless it contains concessions on President Obama's health care law. The other statement comes from President Obama, who tells NPR today he won't accept any measure that does include such concessions.
The president spoke this afternoon with our colleague Steve Inskeep of NPR's MORNING EDITION, who's at the White House. And, Steve, did you hear any wiggle room in the president's statements?
STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Audie, let's let the president say it here. Let's listen to a question that President Obama, a bit earlier this afternoon, effectively answered with his first word.
As you have watched what's happening in Congress, do you feel that House Republicans are coming any closer to anything that you could sign?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No.
INSKEEP: He said some more, Audie Cornish, but not a lot more really. Hours before a government shutdown, the president said he is just not going to give any concessions in exchange for a short-term continuing resolution, as it's called, running the government for a few weeks.
CORNISH: And there have been a variety of things Republicans have been offering. We've heard from reporters, they want to delay the individual mandate for Obamacare or get rid of a tax that helps to pay for the health care law. But are any of these options truly open for debate?
INSKEEP: Well, Democrats have suggested that they could negotiate some of those as part of a broader budget deal. They've been united in saying they don't want to negotiate them as part of what they describe as a hostage-taking situation. But as part of a broader budget deal, they could do something.
Now, in our conversation, the president did not absolutely rule this out, but let's listen to a little bit more of that conversation because the president certainly didn't seem to favor those kinds of concessions in any circumstance.
If they offered you more, Mr. President, would you be willing then to negotiate things, like a delay in Obamacare, in the individual mandate?
OBAMA: Steve, let's be clear. We're not going to delay the Affordable Care Act. There are millions of Americans right now who do not have health insurance. And they are finally, after decades, going to be in a position where they can get affordable health care just like everybody else. And that means that their families, their kids, themselves, they've got the basic security that you and I enjoy. And the notion that we would even delay them getting that kind of peace of mind, potentially going to a doctor to get treated for illnesses that they currently have, simply because the Republicans have decided ideologically that they're opposed to the Affordable Care Act, is not something that we're going to be discussing.
INSKEEP: As we talk, Mr. President, we're on a day when, obviously, a shutdown is looming. You said earlier that you were going to be talking to the leaders. Did you mean Republican leaders? And if so, which one?
OBAMA: Well, I'm going to be talking to all of them. And we still have a window. There's still an opportunity during the course of this day to avert a shutdown and make sure that we are paying our bills and if we...
INSKEEP: What can you offer?
OBAMA: Steve, when you say what can I offer, I shouldn't have to offer anything. They're not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That's part of their basic function of government. That's not doing me a favor. That's doing what the American people sent them here to do, carrying out their responsibilities.
I have consistently that I'm always happy to talk to Republicans and Democrats about how we shape a budget that is investing in things like early childhood education, rebuilding our roads and bridges and putting people back to work, growing our economy, making sure that we've got the research and development we need to stay at the cutting edge and that deals with some of our long-term debt issues. But we're not going to accomplish those things if one party to this conversation says that the only way that they come to the table is if they get 100 percent of what they want. And if they don't, they threaten to burn down the house.
CORNISH: Steve, the president spoke to reporters this afternoon. What did he say, if anything, about a possible shutdown?
INSKEEP: Well, the president was speaking at the White House briefing room just a short time after our interview. And he did not say that there will be a government shutdown, but then every word, almost, that the president spoke suggested his expectation that there will be one. He said it was Congress' job to avoid one, that they had to do their job. And then he began talking about what will happen in the event of a shutdown. People will continue receiving their Social Security checks, the mail will be delivered, national security agencies will continue. But NASA would shut down almost entirely, office buildings, government office buildings will close, paychecks will be delayed, children's programs will be hamstrung. The president was expecting the worst.
CORNISH: We'll hear more of your talk with the president tomorrow on MORNING EDITION. NPR's Steve Inskeep at the White House. Steve, thanks.
INSKEEP: Good talking with you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.