WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama said in an interview that he has done everything in his power to work with the Republican Party since being in office.
In an interview with CNBC Wednesday, Obama put the onus of the government shutdown squarely on Republicans, saying they are more concerned about ending Obamacare then what’s best for the country.
“I think it’s fair to say that — during the course of my presidency — I have bent over backwards to work with the Republican Party. And have purposely kept my rhetoric down,” Obama told CNBC. “I think I’m pretty well-known for being a calm guy. Sometimes people think I’m too calm. And am I exasperated? Absolutely I’m exasperated. Because this is entirely unnecessary.”
Obama said House Speaker John Boehner is cow-towing to the Tea Party faction within the Republican Party.
“We have a situation right now where if John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, puts a bill on the floor to reopen the government at current funding levels, so that we can then negotiate on a real budget that allows us to stop governing from crisis to crisis, it would pass,” Obama stated. “The only thing that’s stopping it is that John Boehner right now has not been willing to say no to a faction of the Republican Party that are willing to burn the house down because of an obsession over my health care initiative.”
Obama also warned Wall Street that they should be concerned this time around about the government shutdown and the impending battle over the debt limit.
“But when you have a situation in which a faction is willing potentially to default on U.S. government obligations then we are in trouble,” Obama said. “And if they’re willing to do it now, they’ll be willing to do it later.”
The standoff continued after a White House summit Wednesday with chief executives as financial leaders and Wall Street urged a resolution before serious damage is done to the U.S. and world economy.
Obama “refuses to negotiate,” Boehner, told reporters after private talks that lasted more than an hour. “All we’re asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare.”
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said moments later, “We’re locked in tight on Obamacare” and neither the president nor Democrats will accept changes in the nation’s 3-year-old health care law as the price for spending legislation needed to end the two-day partial shutdown.
With the nation’s ability to borrow money soon to lapse, Republicans and Democrats alike said the shutdown could last for two weeks or more, and soon oblige a divided government to grapple with both economy-threatening issues at the same time.
The White House said in a statement after the meeting that Obama had made it clear “he is not going to negotiate over the need for Congress to act to reopen the government or to raise the debt limit to pay the bills Congress has already incurred.”
It added, “The president remains hopeful that common sense will prevail.”
The high-level bickering at microphones set up outside the White House reflected the day’s proceedings in the Capitol.
The Republican-controlled House approved legislation to reopen the nation’s parks and the National Institutes of Health, even though many Democrats criticized them as part of a piecemeal approach that fell far short of what was needed. The bills face dim prospects in the Senate, and the White House threatened to veto both in the unlikely event they make it to Obama’s desk.
“What we’re trying to do is to get the government open as quickly as possible,” said the House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia. “And all that it would take is us realizing we have a lot in agreement.”
Congress has passed more than 100 temporary funding bills since the last shutdown in 1996, almost all of them without controversy. The streak was broken because conservative Republicans have held up the current measure in the longshot hope of derailing or delaying Obamacare, just as the health insurance markets at the heart of the law opened on Tuesday.
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