President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that he was “exasperated” by the first federal government shutdown in nearly two decades, but said that he would not negotiate with Republicans until they passed a continuing resolution to finance it.
“Am I exasperated?” Obama asked in a CNBC
interview on Wednesday afternoon. “Absolutely. I’m exasperated because this is entirely unnecessary.
“I am exasperated with the idea that, unless I say to 20 million people you can’t have health insurance, these folks will not reopen the government,” the president added. “That is irresponsible.”
The CNBC interview came three hours before Obama was scheduled to meet with GOP and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House, the network reports.
The federal government shut down at 12:01 a.m
. on Tuesday over the issue of delaying the individual mandate for Obamacare for a year . As many as 800,000 employees were furloughed, though some remained at work to provide essential services.
The government last closed for a total of 28 days between November 1995 and January 1996.
Obama told CNBC that if House Speaker John Boehner proposed legislation to reopen the government at current funding levels while the White House and Congress continued long-term budget talks, it would pass.
“The only thing that’s stopping it right now is that John Boehner 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 with my health-care initiative,” Obama said.
The president added that it was “not acceptable for one faction of one party in one chamber” to close the government or risk the nation's first-ever default on its credit obligations because it wanted Obamacare repealed or delayed.
“The message I have for the leaders is very simply: As soon as we get a clean piece of legislation that reopens the government — and there is a majority for that now in the House of Representatives — until we get that done, until we make sure that Congress allows Treasury to pay for things that Congress itself already authorized, we are not going to engage in a series of negotiations,” Obama said.
“If we get in a habit where a few folks, an extremist wing of one party — whether it’s Democrat or Republican — are allowed to extort concessions based on a threat of undermining the full faith and credit of the United States, then any president who comes after me… will find themselves unable to govern effectively.
“And that is not something I’m going to allow to happen,” the president said.
Further, the instability created by any short-term budget fix would not work, Obama told CNBC.
He added that Wall Street "should be concerned" about the current government shutdown. So far, the markets have reacted calmly to the situation.
“I think this time’s different,” Obama said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the president addressed the Financial Services Forum, a group of top corporate leaders that included chief executives of the nation's major banks.
He told CNBC that he told the group that "democracy’s messy," adding: "When you have a situation in which a faction is willing to potentially default on U.S. government obligations, then we are in trouble. And if they’re willing to do it now, they’ll be willing to do it later."
President Obama said that he welcomed input from Republicans on how to improve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, whose individual mandate took effect on Tuesday.
"If they want to give me specific suggestions around how we can improve delivery of health insurance to people who need it … I’m happy to talk to him about it,” he told CNBC. "But I’m not going to do it subject to the threat that somehow America defaults on its obligations."
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