The current government shutdown was a purposeful Republican strategy, President Barack Obama said in a press conference that just ended on Tuesday afternoon. He also said that “the worst part about it” is that the “threat is unnecessary.”
America “shouldn’t have to get permission from a few irresponsible members of Congress just to keep the government running,” President Obama told reporters in the White House’s press room. The press conference took place after Obama had a phone conversation with Speaker of the House John Boehner. In his press conference, the President said that the Speaker should hold a vote on the Senate bill that would re-open the government without any conditions, which a majority of House members may be willing to pass. He said that even if such a bill did not pass, Representatives should be “on the record” as voting for or against it.
In his statement, and in response to questions, Obama repeatedly stated he would not begin making concessions of any kind until the government is running again. “I’ve said I will negotiate,” the President said later, “But not under threat.”
Obama used his simplest and most direct language yet on the subject. “We’re not gonna pay a ransom just to keep the government running,” he said. “And we should all agree on that.” In his opening remarks, he stated that “We can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy.”
At a certain point, the President looked directly into the cameras, for the only time in the press conference, and said, “To all the American people, I apologize that you have to go through this– every three months it seems like. Lord knows I’m tired of it.”
The President says he is also rejecting other elements of Republican strategy regarding the shutdown and looming debt default, saying “You cannot pay some bills and not others” without damaging the country’s credit. He also said the he has been using his emergency powers to keep necessary elements of the government running, and to allow Secretary of State Jack Lew to keep paying some of the government’s bills, but that these options will soon run out.
Obama explained that the upcoming debt limit deadline was not permission to accrue new debt, but paying debts the government has already run up. He also acknowledged the political realities of the position Congressional Republicans are in, saying “A big chunk of them are in gerrymandered districts where there’s no competition, and those folks are much more worried about a Tea Party challenger than they are about a general election with a Democrat, and in that environment it is hard for them to compromise.”
Amid remarks that were mostly about standing firm, the President also expressed new willingness to negotiate under temporary measures to keep the government paying its bills in the short term. He also hinted at the possibility of solutions that have certain guarantees attached, saying that he would be on board if Republicans were to “attach some process to that that gives them some certainty that in fact things they’re concerned about will be topics for negotiation.
During the press conference, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was on the Senate floor saying that he believes negotiation is necessary, saying “When you have divided government, it means you have to talk to each other.”
Nevertheless, Obama was mostly stating his confidence that entering full negotiations under the current circumstances would be the wrong move, and that the Republican shutdown strategy was setting a bad precedent, saying “I’m not budgin’ when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States.”
Written By: Jeremy Forbing