President Barack Obama seemed open to negotiating a temporary agreement on reopening the government, but accused Republicans of hostage taking, extortion and seeking to deny health care to millions before calling for civility.
“You do not hold people hostage or engage in ransom taking to get a hundred percent of your way, and you don’t — you — you don’t suggest that somehow a health care bill that you don’t agree with is destroying the republic or is a grand socialist scheme,” Obama said in a press conference Tuesday.
He later said Americans expect “civility, common sense, give and take, compromise.” But he reiterated he will not compromise on a government shutdown or on the debt ceiling.
“I’ve been willing to compromise my entire political career,” Obama said. “But I’m not going to breach a basic principle that would weaken the presidency, change our democracy and do great damage to ordinary people just in order to go along with what the House Republicans are talking about.”
He said “we can’t make extortion routine,” saying he was looking out not just for himself, but for future presidents.
Obama spoke with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, earlier Tuesday. Obama has said he will not negotiate on the health law or the debt ceiling.
Boehner said he does not have the votes to bring a “clean” debt ceiling vote to the floor, but Democrats have disputed that 27 House Republicans are willing to vote for a continuing resolution and a “clean” increase in the debt limit without any conditions.
The president said “this is about a Republican obsession with dismantling the Affordable Care Act and denying health care to millions and millions of people.”
Obama insisted that even if the votes are not there for reopening the government and a debt ceiling increase, Boehner should allow it to come to the floor to put each House member on the record.
“Let’s take a vote in the House,” Obama said. “Let’s end this shutdown right now.”
He said not passing another increase in the debt limit would “risk a very deep recession,” and prompt mortgage and student loan interest rates to increase. He also said it would increase borrowing costs for the United States, so “this would add to our deficit, not decrease it.”
The government went into partial shutdown on Oct. 1 after House Republicans passed a third temporary spending bill which the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected, as it did two previous bills.
The House GOP first defunded implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. When the Senate rejected the measure, the House voted to delay the law for a year, which the Senate also rejected.
Finally, hours before the clock ran out on Sept. 30, the House voted to allow the rest of the law to go forward, but removed what Republicans considered tantamount to waivers for Congress and staff and further voted to delay the individual mandate to be in line with the employer mandate. Senate Democrats also rejected this compromise and the government shutdown began.
It resulted in the furlough of about 800,000 federal workers, and also unpopular decisions by the executive branch such as closing national parks and monuments.
Since the shutdown, the House passed several provisions to fully fund the national parks, fully fund FEMA, the District of Columbia, military chaplains and other federal functions. Again, the Senate refused to take up any of the funding bills.
Obama said he would not consider any of these measures.
“Here’s the problem. What you’ve seen are bills that come up where wherever Republicans are feeling political pressure, they put a bill forward and if there’s no political heat, if there’s no television story on it, then nothing happens,” Obama said. “If we do some sort of shotgun approach like that, then you’ll have some programs that are highly visible get funded and reopened, like national monuments, but things that don’t get a lot of attention, like those SBA loans, not being funded.”